A Timely Smoke

There are more than a few factors to consider when reaching for a pipe. Do I want to smoke an English blend or Virginia tobaccos? Am I in the mood for a sandblast or does my hand want a smooth finish? Bent or straight? Do my hands need to be free for most of the smoke? Will I need to set the pipe down at some point? Should I grab a sitter then? One characteristic that I almost always take into consideration, though, is how long the bowl will last. Depending on my schedule, I might need to grab a pipe with a significantly smaller chamber, lest I leave half of the bowl unfinished.

With this in mind, some pipes have become defined by my daily routine, or, rather, my routine has become defined by certain pipes. Some commutes require specific pipes because the time it takes to smoke a bowl lines up perfectly with the travel time. I don't even need a clock to know if I'm going to be late to work — the finished bowl makes my tardiness apparent. My morning coffee is poured into a different mug depending on which pipe I'm smoking. (The ratios of mug to bowl and sips to smoking cadence are intricate and inherently entwined, and I'm convinced they can be perfectly realized through some complicated algorithm or physics formulae... if only I knew something about physics.)

In fact, I've found that most times I don't even need to wear a watch. I know my lunch break is over because my pipe's chamber is left only with dottle. A meeting is surprisingly short or painstakingly long, not because my eyes are on the clock, but because my bowl is either still lit or went out ages ago. It's not bedtime because it's eleven o'clock; it's because my pipe is cleaned out after a bowl of Nightcap.

With this in mind, some pipes have become defined by my daily routine, or, rather, my routine has become defined by certain pipes.

I've learned that it's this reinterpretation of time that helps make pipe smoking such a calming, peaceful practice. When watching a clock, one observes time passing as the hands slowly move over one another around the face, like sand languidly sifting through an hourglass. With a pipe, though, we don't merely observe time; we experience it as it happens and, in a sense, can even control how it passes. By altering our smoking cadence or by choosing a pipe with a certain chamber size or by opting for a differing cut of tobacco, pipe smokers can make time pass faster or slower as desired.

If you want to stay up later, simply pack your day's final bowl with a plug as opposed to ribbon cut, or reach for that Ser Jacopo double Maxima instead of a petite Ropp. On the flip side, though, if you have only a spare half hour between appointments, then that Ropp might just be the briar for the job.

Maybe one day, I won't ever need to ask the time. My schedule will line up perfectly with the pipes I'm smoking, the day seamlessly tied together with slow puffs and wisping tendrils of smoke, and I'll be the better for it.

Category:   Pipe Line
Tagged in:   Editorial Pipe Culture


    • Michael Rizzo on April 11, 2019
    • I absolutely love this piece! Couldn’t agree more with every last word. Well said Truett!

    • arpie55 on April 14, 2019
    • For many years I seemed to gravitate toward the larger bowls but more recently I have found that smaller bowls fit my lifestyle better. As I consider this I have to admit that it is a sad statement because it speaks of how busy our lives can get, preventing us from enjoying life's simpler pleasures.

    • Robert Blanks on April 15, 2019
    • Truett, you hit the nail on the head! After many years of the hobby, this is absolutely true for me. Nice to know I'm in tune with you and other of our brothers on this.

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