I was late for a meeting the other day, so I quickly grabbed a pipe and filled it, ran to the conference room and lit up. Yes, we smoke in meetings here. It's remarkably civilized, and I recommend it for the rest of the world.
I couldn't tell you what the meeting was about, though. Maybe it was important, I don't know. A colleague noted a few weeks ago that I look ponderously deep in thought during meetings, as if calculating the strategies for perpetual world peace. But that is employment camouflage. It's the pipe. A pipe can make even me look intelligent and invested, and I've capitalized on that. When I'm in meetings, the only thing happening in my head is old Roadrunner cartoons on a repeating loop. I may crack a wry smile now and again, which my colleagues attribute to wisdom, but it's due only to the coyote immolating in the blast of an Acme rocket. I never tire of that wacky coyote.
Not this time, though. I was diverted from my routine mental disassociation by my pipe, which was acting strangely. It had never behaved in such an odd manner before and I didn't quite know how to cope.
It was smoking perfectly.
And I mean perfectly. I put it down to pretend to take some notes, and two minutes later when I picked it up, it was still smoking. One draw and it was in business. I tamped only twice in 30 minutes and never relit. I would put the pipe down on the table and watch the wisps of smoke, and just as they were dwindling to invisibility, I'd pick up the pipe and draw, and it would roar into life as if my last puff had been only a few seconds before. The flavor was full and rich and I kept wanting more. It was a miraculous happenstance, and that may have been the only meeting I've ever attended that I wasn't desperate to escape.
I kept glancing around the table to see if others noticed this phenomenon, but no one appeared to understand the cosmic significance of the event. I later discovered that they did notice, and a couple of them even attributed it to my advanced pipe smoking experience. Ha! It was utter chance. I got busy reviewing my steps, exactly how I'd filled the bowl, the consistency of my tobacco, etc., in hopes of reconstructing the circumstance, because bowls of tobacco that perform at that advanced level are usually years apart.
Typically, I am always fiddling with the bowl, tamping a little harder on one side to adjust the burn and compensate for my artless filling method, or gently breathing through the stem to try to keep the tobacco lit. I may poke a hole down through the tobacco to provide a flue if the draw is too tight. I may pry part of the tobacco up and then gently push it back down in a doomed effort to improve the smoke. It seems like I'm always chasing and losing that perfect smoke, so when I finally caught it, I was surprised.
And now I can't repeat it. I've tried the same pipe, filling it quickly and haphazardly, trying to recapture my experience, but it's gone. Now I'm back to relighting 20 or 30 times per bowl, and my coworkers are starting to catch on and realize that I'm not nearly as smart as I appear. Especially when they ask my opinion during a meeting and I wake from my reverie, able to reply only, "Beep-beep! Thththppthth."