Adam O'Neill
Pipe Encounters of the Awkward Kind
Whether you're relatively new to the hobby or a seasoned pipe smoker, I think everyone who's smoked a pipe in public has had at least an awkward encounter or two. Be it with law enforcement or the general public, our relatively niche mutual interest tends to garner some interest.

For my part, as someone who travels both personally and for work (plus that whole packing up and moving countries thing I've done a couple of times now) I've had more than my fair share of encounters. I've been pulled to the side by TSA (US airport security) while both my pipes and myself were residue tested, almost had pipes confiscated by one particularly overzealous police officer while driving in South Carolina (word to the wise: insinuating that an officer should know that they live in a county that produces the most tobacco in SC is not the way to play that), and generally just grilled on why I smoke a pipe, who still smokes pipes and — possibly my all time favourite — can you tell me this one brand my grandfather smoked 50 odd years ago?

Possibly the most awkward encounters I've witnessed though have actually all happened to our own Josh Burgess, who — let's be real here — can be fairly awkward to begin with. From a mother soliciting a few puffs of Josh's Grechukhin for her child — unsuccessfully, I'll add, despite her protestations that it was the lads birthday — to multiple folk marvelling at the combination of the pipe and his southern accent (thankfully he failed to let them know he used to be a professor of American history, or who knows what might have happened), and even one extremely lengthy conversation that ended in swapping Facebook requests. Actually, knowing exactly how ill at ease Josh can be with social situations, I'm always kind of impressed with how well he deals with these encounters.

If you've got any particularly awkward public pipe smoking moments you'd like to share, write to us at [email protected] or reply to this newsletter. We'd love to hear them, and if we get enough we might even put the more amusing anecdotes up on the blog.

Category:   Editorial Tagged in:   At Smokingpipes


    • Anonymous - 22 September 2020
    • Hello, Well Adam as a very well seasoned traveler myself I can attest to the awkward situations that one can encounter while traveling. Albeit I try not to travel to the US as sometimes you read that the security and police can be a bit “jumpy.” I was however living in an EU country about 2 years ago and did have an encounter with a VERY overzealous young woman. I lived in a quiet apartment with some of the best neighbors you could ever ask for. We would get together for cookouts and even a few movie nights. I lived on the first floor and would sit out on pleasant nights and read/reflect on my day while enjoying a nice puff from my pipe. None of my neighbors minded as most were cigarette smokers themselves and found my “hobby” to fill in the evening with a pleasant area note. One evening in mid summer I found myself outside minding my own business when low and behold I hear someone clearing their throat several times, loudly. So loud in fact that I figured it might be a medical issue such as someone choking. I looked up from my tablet and much to my surprise there was a woman standing in the apartments small ( and very walled off) back garden. I ask if she is alright, ...mistake #1. I am then stared at like an older sibling might when you are being scolded by your parents for something you did and they are judging you. So I proceed to ask if there is a problem.... mistake #2. This health and social justice warrior (SHJW)then brings out the statement we tobacco connoisseurs dread “ Didn’t anyone tell you Smoking KILLS?!” I responded like the snarky bastard I am with “ What?! No, when did they decide this?”

      At this point two of my neighbors had moved onto their balconies near me and were watching the show.
      The SHJW then starts to tap here foot rather loudly like a rabbit high on speed... which should be impossible because she was standing in a grass area, but there it was, the unmistakable sound of tap, tap, tapping. I am then put into a 5 minute lecture of why smoking is killing her, the planet and the economy. At no point was it mentioned that it might not be good for me, no no just her any everyone else.

      I then proceeded to ask her how it was hurting the economy when we smokers pay such hi tax rates. Or how it could hurt the economy when we keep tobacco farms, local small businesses, and government regulator employees employed.

      My neighbors then ask how it is hurting the environment when we are helping with the growth of plants that help clean the air we all breathe?

      She of course grumbled a “ Smoking Kills!”
      After a few minutes of her making more guttural noises she finally wiggles herself back between the walls of our back garden. Vacating our small oasis so that it could return to a calm norm.

      Our building maintenance company came out the next day to brick up the space with whence the would be Joan of ark came from to help us ward off another verbal tirade.

      That of course is only the tip of this iceberg, as one of my neighbors later let us all know our SHJW was later that week seen being handcuffed and very unceremoniously shoved into a police car...the offense you might ask? Possession of large amounts of MDNA.... you know because tobacco is the killer.....;)

    • Piper - 29 September 2022
    • Strange thing I've noticed travelling all the time with my pipes... My pipe tool has never popped up when my carry on bags have been scanned. Considering it's similar to a penknife and has a large spike, this has always surprised me. I did get stopped once in Nigeria by a zealous security lady, keen to see what was in the tins in my bag. She wanted to confiscate my pipe tobacco as 'smoking be bad', but I managed to persuade her to give it all back to me if I promised to 'cut down on my bad habit'. The worst thing these days is hotels with no smoking rooms or windows that don't open. Fortunately my usual hotel in Nairobi still has smoking rooms and windows that open, so I can enjoy my pipe in peace in the evenings.

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