The man at the wooden table hand-rolled another cigar. I was the only non-smoker in the shop. Possibly ever. But I had discovered a health benefit to cigars and was on a mission. That mission brought me to a fancy cigar store uptown and to this altogether different one where I would receive an interesting offer.
I have no medical proof but…
My adopted soldier and a few other soldiers I wrote to loved cigars. Based on my years of no medical school, I decided that the emotional and physical benefits outweighed the nicotine negatives because:
1. Getting mail reduces stress, anxiety and a host of other bad things. Getting a care package with an item you love and miss ups those benefits.
2. Their current environment and/or air quality is worse than anything I could do. They were working near towns that burn trash in endless fires in long ditches, and breathing in fighter jet fuel, smoke from being mortared, etc.
Sounds like pickles
I pressed a buzzer to gain entry into the uptown cigar shop. The atmosphere was quiet and reverent. I was led to the walk-in humidor to contemplate my purchase. After a few minutes, Adam came to help me. I asked him what he recommended.
ADAM: Does your friend like strong flavors?
ME: I don’t know. We’ve never met. He’s my adopted soldier. Although he once mentioned something that kinda sounded like pickles…um gerkins. Does that sound familiar?
ADAM: Yes Gurkhas. Do you want a box?
There is a wide price-point when it comes to cigars. I wound up getting a variety. As I only got four cigars, it was a small variety, but it’s the thought that counts. Adam kindly tossed in a cutter and a box to help me ship them and wished my soldier well.
We know it’s about your hair
The next time I went to a place that hand-rolled their cigars. I was a little shy to walk in because it felt like a clubhouse. But these guys were awesome and more than happy to help me.
As a gentleman thoughtfully chose cigars for my soldier, I kept walking in and out of the shop. Finally, one of the guys said,
“We know what you’re doing. We know it’s about your hair. This is why our wives and girlfriends won’t hang out here. They don’t want their hair to smell like smoke”
He was right. But in my defense, I had just gotten my belligerent waves blown-out and was pretty much having the best hair day of my life.
So they made me an offer. If I would sit there with them and smoke my first cigar, they would pay to get my hair redone. I wanted to be the cool chick that said yes and had a good story. But I’m me and I was already queasy from the smoke. A cigar would put me over the edge.
Before I left, they asked me to give my soldier their thanks. They also gave me a few cigars for free so he could share and hoped he enjoyed what they had picked out. I asked if they would tell my soldier themselves:
Cigars in action
Each time I sent cigars to Afghanistan the soldiers loved them. They loved being able to take a break and to have this taste of home. The air around them changed for a few moments, infused with good memories. It brightened their spirits. My adopted soldier even saved one for when he came home on leave. His commute back was like Amazing Race with bullets. It involved many days and little sleep. At the airport, he met his infant son for the first time. Finally exhaustion kicked in and he slept for 12 hours and when he awoke,
“Of course everyone was still sleeping since it was 5am, so I made my dogs wake up and go for a walk with me. After that I tried waking up my wife and she begged me to let her sleep for another hour. So I went outside and smoked one of the cigars you sent me and just enjoyed the country morning.”
The following year when my adopted soldier returned from his deployment, I found out he brought back all the letters people had sent him. He had saved them because these letters from strangers meant something. Small things do when you’re deployed. His wife made me a beautiful scrapbook and I found out he saved every cigar band too. That may not be scientific proof, but it’s proof enough for me that these cigars gave him a healthy morale boost. In a combat zone, that is very, very good for you.
© Gina left the mall, 2012