|My great-great grandfather Buck and his grandfather|
It is May 15th. I notice for the first time on the Smokingpipes.com website a link: Work For Us. Literally and figuratively, this is a pipe dream. Nevertheless, grinning stupidly, I mention the discovery to my wife. For the next five days she lovingly pesters me to produce a resume.
May 20th. After three days of writing, formatting, and tinkering, I’ve finally finished a worthy resume. I’ll wait until Monday to email the thing, I decide. Monday is the best day to send a resume.
Monday, May 23rd. After several hours of determining how to convert my resume “.wps” doc into a coherent and stylized html email, I’ve sent into cyberspace my plea for gainful employment many hours later than I would have preferred. It doesn’t matter anyhow. This is a pipe dream. A lark.
My wife makes me promise, dutifully, to follow up with the submission if too many days have passed before we’ve heard a response. We discuss a time frame. I know what it is to sift through the garbage of employment inquiries, but she’s ever hopeful and eager, and would see me follow a path of tenacity rather than caution. We agree to wait for three weeks. She makes me note our agreed follow-up date on my calendar. She watches me do so. Now I will have to follow-up.
Three days pass. It is now Thursday of the same week. It’s a sunny, crisp Californian spring afternoon. I am sitting at our balcony, smoking Virginia Cut Plug from a straight billiard, listening to Abbey Road echoing quietly from the living room behind me. When the phone rings I do not answer because the reported number is very unfamiliar. What a very curious area code. “843”?
Seconds pass before the phone silences. My distracted mind lazily returns to the fragrant smoke, keen to its lingering taste of honeysuckle and wheat berry. After several moments my relaxation is again agitated by a harsh chime which indicates the arrival of voicemail.
I jam the pipe into my mouth, freeing both hands, slap the OFF button on the stereo’s remote, grab my phone and dial into the voicemail system.
“Hello, this is Brian Levine from Smokingpipes.com. I’m looking at your resume and I’m interested in talking with you.”
It’s the middle of June. Brian said that Sykes Wilford, President and Founder of Smokingpipes.com, might eventually call, but one of the last things he said to me before we hung up was, “Don‘t quit your day-job.”
We had spoken at length of our interest in pipes and pipe tobacco, our distress regarding the availability of some of our favorite brands, and of the various facets of the pipe community in general. I felt boyish when he asked that I speak of my own very small collection of very common pipes. Yet, talking with Brian had, for the first time, made me feel like the possibility of moving to Little River, South Carolina was a real one. This is a dangerous feeling. This is a pipe dream.
My wife is too excited about all of this. It makes me nervous. On the night I’d spoken with Brian, Shelly and I made an agreement to wait three weeks before I started sniffing around again. “No less than three weeks.” I had said adamantly. “Brian only said Sykes might call. He said, ‘Don’t quit your day job.’” After two weeks of patient waiting, Shelly’s begun to nudge daily about my scheduled “follow-up”.
“How many days?” she asks, smiling knowingly, and bright.
“Three days. I call in three days. But maybe I’ll email.”
“I think you should call.”
Today is July 8th. On June 25th, I was supposed to call Smokingpipes.com. Were they interested in hiring me or were they not, I’d ask. Of course, I had no intention of putting it to anyone quite so bluntly, but that was the gist of it. In a nutshell, so to speak. Instead, Sykes Wilford, President and Founder, called me on June 24th.
Shelly and I are headed to the Sacramento airport. Sykes is flying me out to see the operation and to get a feel for things. I’ll only be in Little River for one full day, so I’ve packed light, bringing only one pipe, a Dunhill 4103, and a small pouch of Pembroke by Esoterica. The thick mixture of thrill and anxiety is rather nauseating. I'm actually flying out there. I can hardly believe this is happening. This is crazy.