The other day, I was driving home from somewhere. I was stopped at a red light. There was a car that turned left on the green light, moving right past me. I couldn’t help but notice that the car was driven by a young 30-ish man who was smoking a pipe. Yep, you read that correctly. A pipe. If he had been wearing a plaid deerstalker hat, I would have thought it was Sherlock Holmes driving a tan Ford Taurus.
I haven’t seen a man smoking a pipe in 50 years. There was a time in the 70s when men smoked pipes. (Men, of course, smoked pipes long before the 1970s. But I’m pretty sure they went out of favor until the practice was renewed for some inexplicable — at least to me — reason in the 70s.) My dad, who smoked cigarettes for many years before he gave up the habit around 1970, smoked a pipe for a short time. I’m pretty sure it was half-heartedly. Because, PIPE. My brother-in-law Terry also smoked a pipe. In fact, if I remember correctly, he had a collection of pipes, some of which he probably smoked. As far as I know, he didn’t own a deerstalker cap or solve mysteries.
Now, men smoke cigars. Cigars are manly and fashionable and don’t make a huge bulge in your pocket if you carry it around as would a pipe. I know this because Bill often carries around a cigar. You never know…..
Speaking of Bill, when I observed the man smoking the pipe, I asked him if he ever smoked a pipe. The answer, of course, was yes. It was the 1970s and it looked good with the mustache and sideburns he sported, along with every other American man in the 1970s. I’ve never seen a photo of Bill with a pipe, but I have seen a photo of Bill with a mustache. And that’s all I’ll say about that.
“Why did you stop smoking the pipe?” I asked him.
“It was disgusting,” said the fervent cigar smoker.
There are still a few people in this world who smoke pipes, I read in an article in the Baltimore Sun. Of course, the article was dated August 1998, so all of those people might have already quit or died. Except for the man driving the Ford Taurus, and leprechauns. According to this long-ago article, both Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger secretly smoked pipes. I’m serious. The article said that they both hid the fact that they enjoyed a good puff of pipe tobacco because it’s considered unmanly, unlike cigars, which are so macho that even dictators smoke them. I’m guessing that neither Sly nor Arnie still smoke a pipe. It’s difficult enough to look macho when you’re limping from gout due to old age.
I will tell you that the last time I went to the grocery store, I cast a glance at the tobacco shelf, which is, of course, locked up like it contains original heirloom tomato and green bean seeds. There, sitting lonely and unloved, were several pouches of pipe tobacco, all with a touch of dust on them. Clearly not the store in which the Ford-driving pipe smoker shops.