A Face In The Crowd 

Nashville native Lola Dyer puts the free back in free spirit. Three years ago, the cardio-respiratory therapist who’d spent years intubating trauma victims decided to use her background in health care to cure her own bad case of wanderlust. She signed up with a Toronto-based recruiting firm, put down “anywhere” on her forms for desired location, and ended up in, of all places, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where she worked at a hospital treating the dying Queen Efat. Though Dyer went through more than two months of background checks, extensive medical tests and batteries of psychological briefings, nothing could have prepared her for the shock of life in the Middle East. She could dress like an American on hospital grounds, but once she left the premises, she was subject to the country’s rigorous gender laws—strictly enforced by religious police known as Matawa. “I was expected to wear an abaya (traditional Saudi covering) everywhere I went. I wasn’t allowed to go out with a man unless I was married to him—so if I did go out, I had to sneak around. I couldn’t drive a car, and I couldn’t drink.” Despite living in a state of constant watchfulness, Dyer wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. “What made it fantastic was the incredible sense of contrast between their culture and ours. The incredible sense of freedom that we have. It sounds absurdly patriotic, but only after going there did I realize I could do anything I wanted with my life.” So, after extensive travels through Israel and Europe, the cardio-respiratory therapist returned stateside—to sell cigars. Dyer hooked up with a good friend whose family is in the cigar business in the Dominican Republic. Now she’s the vice president of marketing and sales for R & E Cigars and Accessories, an authorized distributor of Cohiba Caribbean’s Finest and the only place you can get the cigars in the Southeast. What does Dyer say about her journey from trauma centers to cigar bars? “That’s freedom, baby.”

—By Adam Ross

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