The Cuban Cigar

Cliff Williams
Department of Philosophy
Trinity College
Deerfield, Illinois 60015

We were talking about Nietzsche in PH 350 Kierkegaard and Nietzsche in the fall of 2001. I said, "Maybe next time I will be Nietzsche." Then I said, "Hmmm. I think I will need a prop for that. Maybe a Cuban cigar."

I don't know why a Cuban cigar came to mind just then. Maybe it was because I have several former students who like to smoke them. One of them, in fact, has smuggled Cuban cigars into the United States from Canada. One time this student had two boxes of cigars he wanted to bring into the U. S. He stopped at the Canadian-U. S. border crossing, took the two boxes out of his car, and tried stuffing them into the pockets of his coat, so that the U. S. border inspectors would not find them. He couldn't get them into the pockets, so in desperation he hid them under some stuff on the back floor of his car. When he looked up after doing so, he saw two Canadian Mounties off in the distance looking at him and laughing. They must, he figured, have witnessed this scene before. He shrugged his shoulders, got into his car, and drove across the border without incident.

I didn't think of my in-class remark until several days later. As I approached my office door in the morning, I saw that a clear, plastic bag had been tacked to the bulletin board on it. I opened the bag and found a cigar. The label on the cigar said, "Montecristo Habana," and the note accompanying the cigar said, "To Prof. Columbo from Pooh's friends. Authentic Cuban." "Authentic Cuban" was underlined. Obviously, I had to take the cigar to class.

I did. Plus matches. After the students had assembled, I took out the cigar and told them it had appeared mysteriously on my office door. Then I took a match out of the matchbox, grasped it in my right hand, and made as if to strike it on the side of the matchbox. One student gasped; another's face lit up. A Trinity professor was going to smoke in class!!

I only pretended to light the cigar. But for the rest of the class period I "smoked" it as I also pretended to be Nietzsche.

I still have the cigar, ready to be smoked, in my office.