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Stogie Commentary: Chagrined in Charlotte

13 Aug 2007

I never thought I’d be so irritated by a “courtesy smoking area.” But that’s exactly what I found at Charlotte Douglas International Airport last weekend.

The trip started innocently enough when my girlfriend and I landed in North Carolina’s largest city after a short flight from our homes in DC. We were heading to northern Minnesota for a long weekend of boating, golfing, and bonfires, but needed to survive a three-hour layover in the Queen City before boarding a flight to Minneapolis.

If a stop in Charlotte seems a bit odd for a trip from Washington to Minnesota, no, you’re not geographically challenged. It’s completely out of the way – but a heck of a lot cheaper than any of the other travel options.

So while we were taxiing to our gate, I started to think about how the two of us could best make the three hours pass. Food seemed a logical choice, even if airport cuisine is overpriced and usually less than spectacular. But that would only kill 60 minutes at most.

“What would really hit the spot,” I thought, “is a nice cigar.” Unfortunately, all the stogies we packed for the trip – a generous supply of Gurkha Expedition Torpedos, Cuban Crafters Cabinet Selection Toros, CAO Criollo Patos, and various Don Kiki lines – were packed in checked luggage and therefore inaccessible during the layover.

And then there was hope. As we stepped off the U.S. Airways Airbus 319 into gate B5, my eyes immediately caught a small cigar shop nestled between the men’s room and a California Pizza Kitchen. What luck! Even though it was clear we wouldn’t be able to smoke in the store, I figured we’d have plenty of time to find the airport’s smoking lounge after dinner.

So, with two freshly cut Arturo Fuente Chateau Fuente Maduros in my pocket and a bunch of crappy pizza in our stomachs, we ventured out to find the closest smoking area.

I honestly didn’t think this would take too long. After all, with an annual tobacco income in excess of $500 million in an industry that employs over 250,000, I assumed North Carolina should have some of the most tobacco-friendly airports in the country. But that’s not the case.

While many airports have indoor smoking lounges and various smoke-friendly bars and restaurants, we were told by our California Pizza Kitchen waitress (who obviously enjoyed cigarettes) that we’d have to leave the terminal for an outdoor “courtesy smoking area.”

As if making us leave the building completely wasn’t enough, Charlotte airport officials actually had the audacity to designate one small area at the end of the last terminal for smokers. It was marked by a large overhead sign above and boxed in with white paint on the pavement below.

We kind of felt like caged animals as other travelers stared while they waited to be picked up by loved ones. Clearly, cigar smokers are somewhat of a novelty in these otherwise cigarette-laden smoking areas. We also received plenty of funny looks from airport employees and TSA workers out for a short cigarette break.

But we sat there for quite awhile, puffing away in the sweltering Carolina heat. Hauling our many carry-ons all over hell’s half acre and going back through security was a pain in the ass, but we couldn’t think of a better way to pass the time.

Patrick A

Tags: cigars

Drew Estate

5 Responses to “Stogie Commentary: Chagrined in Charlotte”

  1. Alexa Monday, August 13, 2007 at 5:59 am #

    Funny, you don't look too chagrined in the photo… 🙂

  2. Cigar Jack Monday, August 13, 2007 at 6:09 am #

    That is the way San Francisco was when I flew there. I walked 20 minutes to find a place to smoke a cigarette. (This was about 10 years ago) I was damn near ready to slip into a bathroom and light up.

  3. Patrick A Monday, August 13, 2007 at 7:03 am #

    Alexa,

    I don't look too chagrined because, when I don't smile for photos, I end up looking like an even bigger doofus. Besides, by this time I'd already gone through all the trouble and was well into the cigar.

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