Many of us have attended tastings, store events or cigar tradeshows at one time or another. They’re usually great fun; the chance to meet like-minded cigar lovers, share a glass or two of something refreshing and enjoy a fine, handrolled cigar, often accompanied by a talk from a representative of the company behind the stick. But when you go home, content with your night out, and lay your head on your pillow, spare a thought for that roving cigar man or woman. While you’re catching up on your beauty sleep, he or she is probably heading to their next gig.
“I haven’t been home in five weeks,” yawns George Sosa. We’re at breakfast in Nottingham, England, and last night there was a trade event here in town. Tonight, he’ll be in London for another one. And the night after that … who knows? He’s crisscrossing the US and Europe to preach the gospel according to Alec Bradley. “I need to get some washing done, catch up on my mail, do the dreaded expenses and spend some time back at home,” he tells me between mouthfuls of bacon and eggs. Home for George – vice president of sales for Alec Bradley Cigars – is Miami, and he is constantly checking his mobile phone for news. When he left, the city was engulfed in storm winds, and floods.
“Once I get home, I have to reset my equilibrium,” he tells me when I wonder out loud how he can do so much travelling and stay sane. “I dump all my washing in the machine and put it on; check through my mail for anything urgent; check messages and call anyone important. Then I take a sleeping pill and crash out for 24 hours. I may wake up, have a drink, go back to bed. It resets my clock and gives me a catchup. Then I’m ready to face the world again.” And George is not alone. The cigar world is full of cigar warriors, pounding the pavements, racking up the air miles, spending their expense money on hotel rooms, and handing out stick after stick to fresh-faced cigar lovers ready to party.
“Life on the road is great, crazy, and sometimes lonely, but I love it,” says Rick Rodriguez of CAO. I’ve met him in America and Rotterdam, and wherever I’ve seen him, he looks brighteyed and ready for fun. But the travelling cigar life isn’t all wine and roses. “Being CAO’s ambassador and blender gives me the opportunity to visit a lot of cool cities, countries, and cigar shops,” Rodriguez tells me, “and meet some fun and wonderful people. But if it weren’t for the great people I meet, it would be tough. Travel is not as glamourous as it used to be and airports suck. I survive, thanks to my music playlist.” Twitter, Facebook and Instagram may make a cigar roadie’s life look rock and roll, but the truth is more prosaic. “Sometimes you forget where you are,” says Sosa. “And sometimes, I run out of time to get my laundry done, which is a real pain. Cigar events mean your clothes need a lot of laundry. Different time zones do take it out of you. And you always have to feel like chatting. It’s no good being the wallflower in the corner at your own cigar event.” And while a lonely layover in a distant airport is no fun for a tired road warrior, absence is hard for those at home as well.
“Time away is harder for my wife Susan and my daughter Sara,” says Rodriguez. “And our dog, Ziggy – he misses me. On the road, I’m always surrounded by friends, which makes things a little easier for me. But I do miss a lot of things like birthday parties, anniversaries and family get-togethers. Thank God I’ve been married for 31 years to someone who supports me and understands my job.” So, what’s the secret to being a great road warrior? “First of all, you have to be a little nuts,” deadpans Sosa, who’s never short of a joke or three. “And you need stamina. You have to be a people person. Oh – and you have to love cigars.”
“Dedication to your brand and the people that support your cigars,” says Rodriguez. “Believe me when I say it’s hard work and not fun all the time. But it’s definitely worth the trip.”
So, next time you see a fatigued-looking cigar road warrior at an event, take pity. Buy him a drink, see how he is. And if you’re lucky, once he’s perked up and told you about the cigar you’re smoking, he’ll tell you his secret to packing all those clothes and never needing to iron them …
This article was published in the Cigar Journal Spring Edition 2018. Read more