When I got serious about smoking premium tobaccos four or five years ago, I had a pretty small collection of pipes. There were three briars on my shelf: my first pipe, a simple Bent Brandy from a lesser-known factory, a full Bent Billiard from a marque that I'd never heard of before and haven't heard of since, and a fairly capacious Dublin that was simply stamped "Italy."
These three pipes served me fairly well. I was only smoking a few bowls of tobacco per week, and exclusively aromatic tobaccos at that. But that small rotation didn't equip me very well for my venture into tinned tobaccos. These pipes were ghosted with vanilla, chocolate, and Lord knows what other flavors, which didn't exactly bring out the best in the English and Balkan mixtures that I increasingly favored.
And these new blends were leading me to smoke much more frequently than a few times per week. I needed more pipes, so I went to work building a collection of reliable smokers — primarily English estates — and the occasional high grade. Over the past year, my tastes in tobacco have changed once again. While I still enjoy a good English or Balkan, more and more I find myself turning to Virginia and Burley blends. Again I've found myself needing to add a few more pieces to the collection. This effort has led me to reflect a bit on what we in the hobby knowingly refer to as P.A.D. — Pipe Acquisition Disorder for the un- or newly-initiated. I believe that I have now struggled with this affliction long enough to diagnose some definite stages in its progression.
1. Generalized Longing
For me, PAD usually begins with a vague desire to buy a new pipe. The object of desire is as yet unformed. I have no specific piece in mind — simply a feeling that I might like a new pipe. During this phase, I find that I spend an inordinate amount of time perusing Smokingpipes.com, even for someone who happens to work here. (One benefit to working here is that we can spend as much time on the website as we like and no one minds.)
2. Choosing a Specimen
In stage two, the longing moves from the general to the particular. In the early phases of stage 2, there may be several specimens that I like, but I usually narrow it down to a single piece pretty quickly. Again, I look at the pipe's image on the website, considering its aesthetic appeal, weight, and measurements. As stage 2 progresses, I go to the Pipe Library here in the office, write the SKU number on the sign out sheet, and bring it back to my office where it sits on my desk for several hours. I continue to work, occasionally pausing to glance at the pipe, wondering how it might smoke.
Assuming that the pipe is satisfactory, I move slowly into stage 3, Rationalization. It is during this stage that my desire to take this piece home must do battle with my left brain by answering such questions as "Do you really need this pipe?", "Didn't you just buy one last month?", "How will we convince the lovely and gracious Allie that this pipe is a better investment than, say, a new range hood for the kitchen?" More often than not, my pipe-loving id pulls a Perry Mason on my reason and convinces it that this pipe is really a valuable addition to my collection. After all, in the humid South Carolina spring, pipes need to rest longer. If I trade in a few estates that I don't smoke any more, we can still buy that range hood. And compared to other hobbies, pipe smoking really isn't that expensive.
Having concluded that nothing could be more reasonable than adding another pipe to the collection, I purchase the piece. I take it out of the box and handle it lovingly. But I don't smoke it. No, a new pipe must take its maiden voyage at home, where proper thought can be given to choosing the inaugural tobacco and accompanying beverage. After that first bowl, I take a great deal of pleasure in knowing that this pipe is finally mine — part of my collection, part of my rotation, an object of desire now well on its way to becoming a faithful companion.