Books for Everyone!

20 January 2021

The Cigar

I do not know what it is with the Political Class and their cigar. Perhaps an oral fixation.

One of the more odious and telling moments of my young young life, when I worked for peanuts in the Washington, D.C. media, involved a cigar. I was the one on the giving end.

At Hearst Newspapers, in the upper echelons, on the upper floors of the high-rise on Penn Ave, catty-corner to the White House, and filled with catty corners and catty people, I routinely dealt with a Mr. B—. Mr. B— was the Chief of the Bureau, with a slew of Indians running around him. At that time during late adolescence, I did not consider myself an Indian, and I still do not, although I do have high cheekbones.

The weekly routine transpired thusly:

Teen-aged Debra came into the Office Abode, and sat down at a desk that was used for other business when she was not working her M-W-F afternoon shift. A large, very large glass ash tray was ensconced atop the desk. Debra would move the filthy, noxious stinking thing to an adjacent work table. And proceed with her work, which partook of filthy, noxious stinking things.

A few months into this charade of the Movers and Shakers moving and shaking only their egos and those of others, Mr. B— walked over to that desk while I was working there. He very conspicuously took that ashtray off the adjacent table, and set it onto the desk. He then lit up his big long fat cigar. And started to obnoxiously smoke it.

An underling, a News-Toady sucking up to the Big Mr. B—, came to the desk to discuss the Latest News. Stupid Ignorant People at the barbecues over the weekend were discussed, and mocked, as these two elegant g-men of the Press laughed and laughed.

Mr. B—, having puffed enough smoke into the air, you know, that 2nd-hand-stuff that his cronies would later demonize — he then squashed the saliva-ridden thing into the ash tray and walked away. Boot-licker Newsboy trailed servilely after him. I am sure Half-Pint Toad kept the appropriate distance from the rear end of Corporate Bureau Chief.

I waited until Mr. B— had securely retreated into his Big Office. I gave him a few more minutes, perhaps to decide to whom he next would boorishly Prove His Importance. I then stood up from my wobbly typewriter chair and took hold of the vile ashtray, with its wet reeking contents. I carried the glass estuary of symbolic stench with me as I walked all the way across the room — and it was a large room, full of large windows, facing Penn Ave.

Without knocking for approved entry, I walked into the Office of Mr. B—.

“I think this belongs to you,” I set the stinky ashtray with the vulgarly squashed cigar on His Desk. “You left it on my desk.”

“I was not aware that desk belongs to you,” he sneered.

“It doesn’t. But this cigar belongs to you.”

I walked out of that office, firmly deciding that my days with Hearst Newspapers were numbered with fewer hours than I had already decided upon. Boss-Lady got wind, or puff of cigar-smoke, of my personal affirmative action. She asked me to please respect Mr. B—.

I informed this pathetically groveling middle-aged woman that he does not respect me — or her — and that statement of truth was the end of that conversation. What I could not figure out back then is how anyone, but especially a woman who presumably holds an elevated perch, can permit anyone, but especially a man, to degrade her six ways to Sunday.

The Sunday aspect has a lot to do with it. That day of the week belongs to the Lord, not to the lords of the land and their cigars. I am notoriously bad at clichés and colloquial expressions. I believe the wrap-up on this one is:

Close but no cigar.

As my dear Dear Friend used to tell me about my better pieces of writing: This one is sweet and short.

Dear Husband just corrected it: Short and sweet.

Either way, this written bit of individual self-respect towers over the pompous pygmies who think they rule the world. The stubbing out of those cigars has just begun.