Thursday, February 18, 2010

The pipe cleaner conspiracy

You know it's coming. It doesn't matter how good your pipe is or the quality of your tobacco. Sooner or later, you will get a gurgle. They say a good pipe will never gurgle, but they do. Properly drilled draft holes, properly aged briar, a solid cake around the bowl, these all help. But if you smoke your pipe, it will eventually gurgle. And if you're lucky enough to avoid that, you still need to clean the pipes, give them a quick swab after you smoke.
And then, one day, you find yourself with plenty of pipes, plenty of tobacco, lighters full and matches aplenty, and you think you're ready to light up. Until you reach for your pipe cleaners. Where those long, fuzzy swabs once were, you find only air. The pipe shop is still open, so you figure you'll run in real quick.
And then they have you.

Quite frankly, pipe cleaners are a conspiracy of the smoking industry. The pipe makers, tobacco blenders and even the guys who make the nifty pipe cases joined together to find a necessary accessory that would bring you in so they could hook you. Because there is only one inalienable truth among pipe smokers:
You cannot buy just pipe cleaners.
You go into the shop, and the pipe cleaners are there on the shelf. Maybe they're next to the lighters. Well, who has enough lighters. You're always losing them. Or maybe they're next to the tobacco. You're going to smoke it eventually anyway, so why not get it now. Or, worst of all, it's next to the pipes. But you won't buy that pipe right away (although you'll have to buy something else, just to tide you over). You'll keep that image in your mind, dwell on it, obsess over it. And then, when you come back, you'll buy that one plus the one next to it, or on the next shelf over, or the one in the display case near under the really bright lights that just make it sparkle.
There are a few reasons for this, at least the way I see it. You can't leave a pipe shop with only pipe cleaners because you feel like a tightwad spending only $2, especially if you didn't bring cash and have to pay with a credit or debit card. There is nothing worse than pulling out plastic to buy something worth less than the pocket change you emptied onto your dresser the night before.
Second, there is always something new at your pipe shop. There's a tobacco you haven't tried or a pipe you haven't seen before or a cigar line the tobacconist just started carrying. Something will always catch your eye. And let's face it, there's nothing worse than passing on a pipe only to see someone else smoking it the next time you come in.
Lastly, you can't leave with only pipe cleaners because you never intended to in the first place. Go ahead, lie to yourself and say I'm wrong. You know how many pipe cleaners you have. It's impossible not to notice, since they are always in sight somewhere in your smoking area. And if you needed more, you could have easily picked some up when you were at the shop last week. You bought a pipe and all that tobacco and a few more dollars would have stocked you up on the white cotton probes nicely. But if you would have bought pipe cleaners then, you wouldn't have to buy them now, and then you wouldn't have an excuse to buy a new pipe or a new tobacco or a new stand that will so nicely hold all of these pipe cleaners.
You see, there really is a pipe cleaner conspiracy, only it's not with all those industry insiders. It exists only within yourself.
But really, what's wrong with that? Everybody loves a good conspiracy.

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