I smelled cigar, which was odd given that I was driving on the highway, alone in my car, and clearly not smoking. I had never smoked a day in my life. This is odd, I thought. A moment later, passing the Titanic of outdated Cadillac blocking the lane, solved the mystery. The driver, who appeared greater in circumference than in height, was toking on a big old stogie. I had been smelling the stench of his cigar, from my car, with closed windows, a hundred feet back.
I’ve always been sensitive to scents, especially that of burning plant matter held tight to the lips and expelled in great clouds of carcinogenic particulate. My father did smoke cigarettes when I was very young, but by the time I was two or three had switched to a pipe. The distinctive smell of a pipe was better than the malodor of cigarettes, but it too made my eyes water and my nose curl. He dropped the pipe before I was ten, which my olfactory apparatus appreciated as much as my mother’s family.
Cigars, in my mind, don’t merely smell – they reek. They rapidly form a mephitis cloud that would turn away the most ill-tempered skunk.
So it came as a surprise, nay, a shock one evening when my brother opted to dip into a cigar shop to check out their wares. “Once in a while he’ll sit back with a cigar,” his wife explained, as I quickly escaped the overwhelming scent inside a store in which no one was actually smoking; the mere presence of leaf-wrapped tobacco sensitized my discomfort. I was all the more surprised at our unexpected side trip because my brother, who is older than me but seems younger, has always been a health nut and runner. The paradox of this still jiggles my gray matter.
If you smoke, you stench. Is this sensible? Is there no sense, Jane of Austen?
David J. Kent is a science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.