In 1994, I started working for a PC manufacturer. I was hired as a salesman. Yes, sales MAN. Women who sell are sales ladies. Men who sell are salesMEN. Salesperson just sounds lifeless.
Within a couple months, we moved to a bigger place. We then hired a tech manager because back then, computers were not powerful enough to do everything, like they do now.
If you wanted a game PC, you packed it with a whopping 16 MB of RAM, a VGA card to do 256 colors 640X480 pixels, a sound card, and a large 80 MB hard drive. If you wanted a server, you packed it with 32 MB of RAM, any video card, and a fast 200 MB SCSI hard drive.
How things have changed! How they have stayed the same.
Back then, a salesman needed to know how computers worked. I could tell you down to the 1s and 0s that a CPU processed and how it assigned them to the RAM. This meant a PC I designed would run faster and more reliably than anyone else.
In fact, I designed the company’s first Pentium PC to be certified for Novell. Yeah, I know, what’s Novell?
Anyway, sometimes, when the tech guys were having issues with getting PCs to work, I would take a look and get it running. A jumper here, a new video card there. I loved that stuff.
Anyway, the tech manager, Ian, took note of my knowledge.
Unfortunately, before he told me how I impressed him, he took a job at the Pentagon, working on the helpdesk for the Air Force.
About a year later, I got a call from him.
Ian: “Hey, Sensei, I wanted to let you know about a recommendation I gave for you.”
Me: “Your timing is impeccable. I just left the company because my manager wanted me to do something illegal and I refused. I say I left. She says she fired me.”
Ian: “Well, I am leaving the Pentagon to be the VP of an IT company in Annapolis. I was impressed with your skills and recommended you to replace me.”
He then gave me the contact info and I set the interview.
The day of the interview, I arrived in DC early. Since I had three hours to spend before the interview, I took the train to Arlington Cemetery.
Arlington is hallowed ground. It is where many of those who gave their lives in defense of our country are buried. One particular marker I wanted to visit was Pappy Boyington.
This is a man, though he hated himself, who was a WW2 hero, and the kind of man I hoped to be. It seemed fitting that during my visit to his grave, it was raining.
It was though God was crying at the place where we should all shed a tear for those who loved their country more than their own lives.
Fortunately, I had the forethought to wear casual clothes for the trip, and bring my suit in a bag. When I got to the Pentagon, I changed into my suit.
At the interview, the guy asked, “How much were you wanting to make?”
I replied, “Well, in Annapolis, I was making 24. But because the trip to DC is a long one, I am asking 25.”
He played with his calculator for a moment and said nothing. We continued the interview. I left, having no idea whether I was hired.
Two weeks went by, I figured they found someone else, so I kept looking for a new job. Then, two weeks and a day later, I got a letter. I first stacked it to the pile of rejection letters, not bothering to open it.
But, something told me to open it. They were offering me a job!
Not only that, but they were offering me $52,000! Not understanding why they were offering so much more than the $25,000 I wanted, I had to think about it.
Turns out, $52,000 is $25 per hour times 2080 hours(the average hours worked in a year). When I said I wanted $25, the guy thought I meant $25 per hour, not $25,000 per year.
This job was paying me twice as much as I ever imagined making. Back then, $52K was like making $150K today. You could buy a house for $52K back then.
So, I took the job.
I was so grateful to Ian that I HAD to show my appreciation. I knew he was a cigar smoker. So, I wanted to buy him a box of cigars.
Back then, Macanudos were among the best cigars you could get. (Now, they are not very good, and I doubt they will ever recover the good name they lost about ten years ago.) So, I bought him a box of Macs, a TV channel changer that looked like a Star Trek NextGen Phaser (because he is a major trekkie), and something else I do not remember what it was.
I spent a paycheck on all of it. My wife threw a major bitch fit, but I was not going to let her deny my showing of gratitude.
So, one day, Ian and his wife invited my wife and I over to a summer party. We went.
The whole time, my, now, ex-wife was bitching about being there. She bitched about how Ian was too friendly. She bitched how Ian’s wife was too hot and my ex was jealous how his wife was too friendly. She bitched how they were flaunting their opulence.
All I saw were two people who loved sharing their bounty with friends, even people whom they barely knew outside of work (meaning my wife and me, since my ex did everythign possible to isolate us from anyone who could be friends). I saw the hospitality I wanted to emulate once I was able.
I presented my gifts, and made apologies to Ian’s wife for not bringing a gift more than the bouquet of flowers, but that was because I had no idea what a woman wants, and my ex was not willing to provide input, because she felt I already spent more than I should have.
Ian’s wife did all she could to be gracious, and I am thankful.
As we sat around the pool relaxing, Ian opened the box of cigars. He explained that it is a custom to give the first cigar back to the giver.
“But, I have never smoked before. I have no idea how,” i explained.
He showed me how to cut a cigar using a guillotine cutter. He showed me how using a wooden match to light a cigar because a gas lighter will affect the taste of the tobacco.
He then showed how, instead of inhaling the smoke, like most cigarette smokers do, you instead open your jaw and draw the smoke into your mouth, allow the flavor to fill your mouth, then blow it out.
I am so grateful to Ian for showing me this. Cigars are one of life’s pleasures that every man should learn to enjoy.
A good cigar helps a man appreciate life. The same calming feeling one gets by sitting in a lawn chair on the beach, watching the sun set, is the same feeling you get when you puff on a high quality cigar.
Many men have lived longer lives because they smoked cigars. Cigars remove the stress one carries everyday. It is as though the burning embers of a cigar are the killers of the evil stress spirits in your mind.
A man who has fought his fight, and is nearly feeling life is not worth living can have his spirit revived by a good cigar. A man can realize life is worth living, if even for the taste of his next good smoke.