The young man stepped through the doorway with an accompanying gust of air. To any non-regular, the stranger would have seemed relaxed and unassuming, but I could tell he was unfamiliar with the place and self-conscious by the way he briefly paused in the foyer to get his bearings, glancing skittishly from left to right. He was out of his element. Clearly, he had never been in a pipe shop before now.
His eyes eventually settled on the shop's rear wall where dozens of pipes were displayed, and with a newfound purpose, he strode briskly to the back. From my vantage point on the sofa, I watched his intent expression canvas each and every briar, my own pipe clenched in my teeth and pinched between thumb and first two fingers. (People-watching is, after all, one of my favorite pipesmoking activities).
When the store manager approached the young man, I couldn't hear their interaction, but soon the manager was fetching pipes from the wall — a Nording Freehand, a Savinelli "320," a couple Petersons, a Neerup, handing them to the customer to try out in hand. The young man ran his fingers over the variety of finishes and hefted each pipe in hand.
He was out of his element. Clearly, he had never been in a pipe shop before now.
Those pipes were soon returned to their racks, though, when the younger gentleman glanced another piece. His expression immediately changed from curiosity to awe and desire. It was a look I recognized and one that my own face had reflected many times before. The manager plucked the pipe from its resting place, and as soon as the young man held it up, I knew this pipe fulfilled the need he hadn't even known he'd had. I could make out the crisp profile and jaunty heel of a lithely bent Dublin, dark of stain and accented with a sterling silver mount and red velvet stem: a Peterson Ashford "D15."
A fine choice, my friend, I thought to myself, surprised by the sudden pride and happiness I shared with this young man despite not even knowing his name. After a few final words, the two men meandered to the register, and the inauguration was completed and made official a couple of minutes later. With a tin of tobacco and neatly boxed pipe in hand, the young man was on his way, privileging me with the beautiful sight of a new pipesmoker and his first pipe. Welcome to the fold.