Is there anything better than a fine cigar? Sex, obviously. Since Sam and I split up, cigars it is. At the moment I’m on Rocky Patel’s Decade (the 80s, judging from the hair style). I buy my smokes from a tony cigar shop in a chi-chi part of town. The guys sheltering in the tobacco-infused enclave hunker down in enormous leather chairs and don’t say boo to a goose. They take their cue from the owner, a man so taciturn he makes a Finnish accountant look like an Irish politician. So there I was, kicking back and talking maybe lecturing about armed self-defense when a tall black man walks in and says “Hey how you niggers doin’ sitting in here smoking your cigars?”
I don’t care if someone calls me a nigger. As a Sephardic Jew, hands-up on the whole sand nigger thing. Besides, I was under the impression that African Americans call each other niggers as a term of endearment. So when the black guy pronounced our not-so-merry band of OFWGs niggers, I felt hip and happening. Swear to God.
That said, there was a black customer smoking a stogie in the corner. A police detective no less. I checked his reaction. He seemed about as perturbed by the newcomer’s epithet as Stevie Wonder at a paisley tie. But OMG was the OFWG owner pissed off. He stood up and told his uninvited guest to “hit the bricks.”
The “intruder” tried to walk it down with some less incendiary trash-talk. The owner was having none of it. (I later learned they had history). The next thing I knew both men were standing by the open door screaming at each other, trading F-bombs like dueling drill sergeants.
At that point the cop figured he knew the best way to sort out two alphas fighting for dominance: add another alpha.
He jumped up, unfastened the thumb strap on his sidearm (I may have hallucinated that part) and ran up to the trespasser. Ein augenblick later the cop was no more than six inches from the owner’s antagonist. “Get the fuck out of here before I lock you up!”
I looked at the guy across from me (smoking a cigar the size and shape of a Narwal Class submarine). “There was no need to escalate the situation,” I pronounced. Me and my big mouth. I should have quickly and silently got up out of the chair and moved towards the back door. And out.
Luckily, the African American interloper took off. Nothing else of any consequence happened; I didn’t even get a parking ticket. But I learned four important lessons.
First, bad shit can happen anywhere anytime. If you think you only need to carry a gun in bad neighborhoods or late at night, places and times when you think the threat level is high, you’re wrong. There’s no telling where, when, how or why a threat will materialize. It just does.
Second, when bad shit happens, it goes down really fast. In my case, one second I’m sitting there puffing a quality cigar in an upmarket establishment prattling on about firearms. Twenty seconds later I’m fifteen feet from what could well become an extremely violent encounter.
Third, WAKE UP. I feel confident that I would have moved if the war of words escalated into a “real” war. But by then I would have been way behind the curve. The best time to react is immediately. If not before. Which brings me to my last lesson . . .
It’s OK to be paranoid. It’s OK to check the exits, sit in a strategic location, make sure my gun hand is free, view people with suspicion and all those other things that “normal” people don’t do. It’s OK to be alert from the git-go, and be ready to ratchet it up from there.
My cigar shop experience was a “come to John Moses” moment. I don’t want to be a deer caught in the headlights. As we armed Jews like to say, never again.