Concerning Relights

I had a friend in high school named David. David was a likeable guy, and few could speak against his character; he was charming, witty, even-tempered, and could connect with anyone on the broadest range of topics. He even smoked a pipe, a hobby we'd bonded over, but as is the case with such enviable people, David's positive aspects magnified his shortcomings. While others charitably ignored David's major flaw, I could endure it for only so long. Such a striking scarlet letter couldn't be tolerated forever, and it eventually ruined our friendship.

You see, while David was a great guy, he took way too many bites while eating — a ridiculous number of bites in ridiculously small portions. What I consumed in one bite would require David six. He didn't eat any slower than the rest of us or eat smaller overall portions, but I mean, c'mon, how can someone take that many bites during a meal? It's just embarrassing.

I loved David like a brother, but I couldn't be expected to tolerate his small-bite habit forever. Every man has his breaking point, and mine occurred the day that summer vacation started, now historically referred to as The Steak 'N Shake Incident of '09:

It was a Thursday afternoon, and we both ordered a frisco melt with cheese fries and a banana/chocolate side-by-side milkshake. David monologued about some food bank he was planning on volunteering at during summer vacation, but I paid him no attention; I couldn't focus on anything other than his bites, those miniscule morsels contrasted against his abyssal maw. The sight was disgusting, but it was a horror from which I couldn't look away. For the years I'd known David, I had politely ignored this flaw of his, but my resolve was now threadbare. I started counting his bites against my own ... 39, 40, 41... 234, 235, 236... I finished the entire meal in 107 bites and 24 slurps; David required 599 bites and 125 slurps. Thus began The Counting.

We spent the rest of that summer patronizing our hometown's locally-famous ice cream parlor, enjoying strawberry shortcake and cheese tots multiple times a week while I continued to clandestinely count our bites. I consumed those meals with a precise average of 27.56 bites; whereas David never finished in less than 90. Again, I know because I counted. I counted our bites on each of our 32 outings that summer.

It became all I could think about. I couldn't stop counting. Food started to lose its taste, and I would hallucinate comically small spoonfuls entering David's mouth, causing me instinctively to count the mirage's bites until shaken from the stupor. Sleep haunted me with nightmares of me taking David-sized bites while a room of onlookers tallied the number in notebooks, all counting in unison as I ate. How could a person take so many bites? It was as infuriating as it was puzzling.

The worst part of it all, though, was that no one else cared.

"Have you ever noticed how many bites David takes while eating?" I asked our mutual friend Michelle.

"How many bites? What?"

Red flag: Michelle seems to think my question is ridiculous.

"I mean David takes super small bites. You're telling me you've never noticed?"

"Umm, no. I don't really pay attention to my friends' eating habits. Or, wait, is this some sort of joke? You're kidding, right?"

She doesn't understand the gravity of this mastication situation. It's possible she's merely ignorant, or perhaps David has secretly established supporters and enablers of his vice.

"I'm not making a joke. I was just wondering if you had noticed David's disproportionate bite-to-meal ratio. Never mind though."

"You are serious! You clearly need a hobby, Truett. Next you're going to tell me you've been counting, analyzing, graphing, and extrapolating the number of bites he takes."

I fail to see her point. What's so ridiculous about that?

I knew then that I stood alone as the paragon of reasonable eating habits, but perhaps there was something I'd been missing, a solution that explained it all. Maybe David's mouth was smaller than mine. That would be a logical explanation, and such a rationale could free me. I needed to investigate further. One night he fell asleep while we were watching The Last of the Mohicans, and I measured the diameter of his open mouth with a caliper. The gaping thing wasn't any smaller than mine. In fact, technically, David's mouth was 0.37 inches larger. Absolutely unbelievable: How could a whale shark enjoy krill one at a time?

With all logic seemingly lost, I began noticing other mundane acts David did too much of, and the counting bled into other areas of our friendship. I started counting his steps, his breaths, even how many times he re-lit his pipe.

My legs were a little longer, but even accounting for that discrepancy, David still took too many steps (1.37 steps to every one of mine, to be exact), moving his legs quicker to maintain the same pace as me but taking shorter strides. I lacked the resolve and focus to accurately count his breaths, but he breathed too much. He definitely relit his pipe too many times; that I can confirm. For every bowl we smoked together, I averaged three lights. David averaged nine lights, 10 if you include the charring light.

This flaw was even more offensive than his taking too many bites. Too many relights? Are you kidding me, David? He often talked throughout most of our smoking time, gesturing with pipe in hand and inattentive to maintaining a steady cadence, but that's no excuse. I maintained a steady cadence of 2.9 puffs per minute while listening, so it's not unreasonable to expect him to do the same while he's talking. I mean, seriously, he'd been smoking longer than I, but that many relights clearly proves that his technique warranted improvement. Too many bites while eating, too many steps while walking, too many breaths while breathing, and too many relights while smoking a pipe: It was unendurable. In a final, spontaneous lunge for salvation, I confronted David in Chemistry class just as the new school year started.

"Hey, David, do you have a second?"

"Sure thing, Truett. What's up, man? Oh, by the way, you played a great game last night. Really glad to have you on the team. What did you want to talk about?"

"Yeah, so, umm, it's about your small bites."

"My small... wait... my small what?"

"Your small bites, David. You take really small bites when you eat, and a lot of them. Your bite-to-meal ratio is incredibly disproportionate, man."

"Wow. You've clearly been doing your research. Okay, so I take a lot of bites? I'm still missing your point though."

"That's it! That's the point, David! You take so many bites. It's exhausting and inefficient. I can't keep counting them forever. And you take too many steps, and too many breaths, and too many relights! What do you expect from me!? Just take fewer bites for the love of God. It's not that hard. Here, I'll show you."

It was at that point that I began shoving random objects into my mouth — pencil erasers, notebook paper, and chalk. I'll admit I'm not proud of that part of the conversation, especially when I took a bite out of the periodic table, engulfing everything from Helium to Arsenic. But David still didn't understand. Apparently I was the weird one.

He didn't even take responsibility for his own misconduct. His "solution" was that we both let the other eat, walk, breathe, and smoke however they want. I explained that his excessiveness was outside the bounds of reason, especially his number of relights, but he refused to listen to logic. In his mind, his talkative nature and propensity toward distraction, blah, blah, blah, were to blame for his excessive relighting, but such excuses only highlighted his denial of the problem. Everyone knows that fewer relights indicate a more sophisticated pipe smoker. David just wasn't willing to admit that.

It's really sad that he would let something like this come in the way of our friendship, but I guess that just shows he's not a friend worth having. I'm much happier anyway; you don't have to worry about friends taking an obscene number of bites or steps or breaths or relights if you don't have any friends.

Category:   Pipe Line
Tagged in:   Humor Pipe Basics Pipe Culture Satire


    • Tampaholic on February 11, 2021
    • Concerning Hobbits...I mean relights. Some people don't have friends, but like to count relights on Mystery Tobacco Reviews. Friends and people are overrated. Alcohol and tobacco are good companions.

    • Mark S on February 11, 2021
    • It sounds like your friend liked to "fletcherize" his food: grinding each tiny morsel to a fine paste swallowed automatically and without effort. Some say this is the key to perfect health and, eventually, enlightenment. Give it a try! Also, relighting your pipe frequently with tiny sips yields the maximum flavour and aroma. But you knew that already: I have seen all of you do that at one time or another. I am beginning to suspect you are pulling our collective leg, you devil.

    • John72 on February 12, 2021
    • Me encantó tu historia Truett. hahahaha. Tuve un "amigo" de trabajo que hacia algo parecido o quizas igual. Y me daban ganas de enviarlo al Polo Norte,era desconcertante....................Un cordial saludo desde Spain.............

    • Salieri on February 14, 2021
    • Wow. Too many words- is there a point?

    • Dr. Jack L. Casner on February 14, 2021
    • This is one a outstanding piece. The writer’s developing obsession with his friend’s ways is perfectly revealed by his careful use of calipers to precisely measure a sleeping buddy’s mouth.

    • Doug on February 14, 2021
    • I smoke alone, with nobody else...

    • Tampaholic on February 14, 2021
    • Yeah, you know when I smoke alone... I'm not obsessed with my friend's

    • Luis Graciano on February 14, 2021
    • Excelente texto, e com uma ironia delicada.

    • Dr. James on February 14, 2021
    • As a psychiatrist, we should talk Truett, give me a call.

    • Pirulin de la Habana on February 14, 2021
    • ....too many bites??? ....truly a first world problem....

    • Robert Silverman on February 14, 2021
    • In the midst of a pandemic, being snow and iced in here in the Pacific NW, an inability to see my great grandchild born yesterday, no newspaper deliveries or eating out, etc., reading this piece bring joy to the day.

    • Clever Pseudonym on February 14, 2021
    • This article is what happens when you don't lock your computer while Chuck Stanion is in the office.

    • Lyle on February 14, 2021
    • Is that all you have to do is to count muldane things. Have you tried getting a life ? Lighten up old boy, life is too short to spend it on such ludicrous per suits. You could always count your blessings.

    • Cranky Claimant on February 15, 2021
    • Come on, .., what are you married to the poor fellow, get over those tiny flaws and write about them instead of someone else's flaws. Or perhaps try and complain about Workers' Compensation Board and all of its' flaws instead. Poor guy, .., are you sure you didn't give him a complex ?

    • Corey on February 16, 2021
    • My friend told me to google the word satire before reading this article ... but all I could see was his excessive blinking. Thanks, Truett. It seems that reading this article has enhanced my powers of observation... like Sherlock himself. I’m off to sip my calabash 2.9 times this minute.

    • D. on February 17, 2021
    • It's a trap! - Admiral Ackbar, RETURN OF THE JEDI

    • Mohamad Z on February 20, 2021
    • AND... That is the pointless thing i ever read!

    • Astrocomical on February 27, 2021
    • How's that line go? The whole world is queer - save for them and me. Even thou art a little queer.You must be queer too to take an obsession over many, many, bites of someone else. Best to part ways before you realize both of you are NOT queer afterall.

    • The Dust Bunny on June 4, 2021
    • I got a good laugh and I thank you. But now I can not help but wonder, are the serious seemimg critics truly serious? Was the humor tag that hard to see?

    • Rich on July 11, 2021
    • Truett- very entertaining but relights for a pipe smoker are definitely noticeable so I have some doubts about that part being satire. Thanks for the contribution.

    • Pete on August 22, 2021
    • Nobody in the comments seems to get it. We here in the States are children of God, blessed with divine Providence– with this comes great responsibility. This includes being mindful of the many sins (and bites!) of our unfortunate and pitiable friends and neighbors.

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