Saturday, December 3, 2011


Every hobby has its caricatures, its members who so well fulfill a particular stereotype that one cannot help but wonder if it is an act.

As a passionate and unabashed geek, I have encountered my fair share of these cartoon-like figures. 

It's happened to me more than once that I have walked into my local comic shop to grab a new release of The Amory Wars or a codex for Warhammer 40,000 and have encountered a man...boy...male leaning over the rack of Magic: The Gathering cards with drool on his shirt and glazed doughnut flakes on his lips, laughing at his own jokes with a drone that would make Fran Drescher cringe. When I encounter this figure, I am almost always tempted to put my selections back on the shelf so that I am not lumped into the same category as this fellow. But I am a geek and will sacrifice my self respect to get my nerdy fix!

Pipe collecting and smoking has these caricatures just as much as comic shops do, though I have never encountered someone who has made me ashamed to be a pipe collector. A great deal of these caricatures are even clearer on Pipe Forums, where people have the opportunity to share photos and thoughts with a click of a button at any time of day.

The One and Done: 

We all have that one pipe that means a great deal to us, that shines through in our memories for one of myriad reasons, such as nostalgia, functionality, beauty, or the quest that one had to go through to acquire it. This particular pipester, however, either managed to acquire that singular pipe of perfection on his first try or subsequently got rid of all other pipes after acquiring this one. He only has one pipe and fails to understand what is known as PAD (Pipe Acquisition Disorder) and the general desire to acquire another pipe. In his mind, if you have a pipe that smokes well, then you're done. I, personally, welcome as many of my friends to join the ranks of the One and Done pipester, as that just leaves more pipes for me!

The Corncob / Briar / Meerschaum / Clay Only Collector: 

Unless you have managed to keep your collection completely symmetrical and balanced, there is one medium of pipes that outweighs the others in terms of value. This particular collector, however, has taken that to the extreme and vowed to collect only one medium of pipe; further, he bellows loudly and often about how all of the other mediums are inferior to his chosen form. When questioned about the virtues of his favorite style, he will go on and on about the wonders of his worshiped material, but will simply plug his ears when similar values are pointed out about the other mediums. Once again, more for me.

The Master Debater: 

This person finds any hot-button issue being discussed, either on a forum or in calm conversation among collectors, and turns a rational dialogue into a raging argument. Common subject matters that the Master Debater simply cannot resist include the value of inner bowl coatings, the function of bowl geometry in relation to tobacco flavor and burning qualities, and the price of pipes. Once this person opens his mouth, the entire conversation stands on the edge of a knife in an attempt to retain its sanity.

The Old Codger: 

No one can really tell how old this person is, but he always seems to be at least ten years older than the other oldest member of the organization. Additionally, though he seems to always be unable to remember your name or even what he had for breakfast, he is perfectly able to remember the pipes of yesteryear and how much better they were than the pipes that are being made today. Even if he acquires some contemporary, artisan pipes, he seems to always return with the same beat up pipe clenched between his jaw. Despite his obsession with the value of the older pipes, he knocks his cherished pipe around like Ali handled Frazier in Manila, forcing the obsessive-compulsive collectors to shudder, all the while lecturing about the good ol' days, Ronald Reagan, and the genius of Wheel of Fortune.

The Flavor Hater: 

This person seems to have had one bad experience with a particular flavor in pipe tobacco and has deemed anything containing that flavor as tripe. There are three typical flavors that draw the most ire: artificial flavorings, Latakia, and Perique. Those who fall into the first camp feel that any "Fru-Fru" tobacco is worthless and is only smoked by those who cannot appreciate real pipe tobacco. For the Lat-Haters, even a little but of smokiness is too much and far too overpowering; despite the fact that there are many subtle Latakia blends, they refuse to try them, as they are under the impression that Latakia poisons even the best of blends. Finally comes Perique-a-phobia. Even a sprinkling of this flavorful leaf makes the pipester feel like they are biting into a peppercorn and thus shiver when even contemplating a blend with Perique in its contents. There is nothing wrong with this caricature unless the personal preference starts to take the form of overarching condemnation, which it often does.

The Put-Everyone-Else-to-Shame Collector: 

This pipester is not evil or bad or even mean. He has managed to amass one of the most stunning, comprehensive, and mind-boggling collections of pipes you have ever laid eyes on. Unfortunately, he is always around whenever you want to show off a new acquisition. He looks on and claps you on the back, congratulating you on your fine new pipe. Then he pulls out his pipe bag, which is made out of the fur of one of Santa's reindeer, embroidered by silent monks living in an Ashram high in the Himalayas, and kissed by Marilyn Monroe. From it he pulls a pipe that might have been crafted by Hephaestus himself, leaving a solitary cricket in the place where your friends were standing moments earlier, as they gather around this collector in an attempt to get a glimpse of the gods' gift to pipe smokers. Eventually, even the cricket goes over to see what everyone is looking at.

Big Brother: 

There's not much to say about this person, because he does not say much at all. Should you encounter this person at a tobacconist or pipe club, he might spend his time staring out a window or blindly gazing into space; if you didn't know better, you might suggest calling 911 to ensure he was still alive. If this is someone you interact with on a forum, you may even start to forget that he exists. Just when you let your guard down, however, he pops into the conversation, either will just a little comment aimed to remind you that he is still listening or with a genius analysis that proves that he, even while half-comatose, still knows more than you do.

The Mad Scientist: 

Just when you thought pipes were simple pieces of wood or stone or corn into which tobacco was placed, ignited, and subsequently inhaled, out pops the Mad Scientist, with chemical analysis, lectures about thermodynamics, and diatribes about principles of engineering, all of which serve to explain why you really like that new Billiard you bought. In other words: Flee before my mighty intellect, peons! The sad fact is that the Mad Scientist is, more often than not, correct. He simply provides so much information that you never needed or, even if you needed it, you could never understand if you tried. He has spent hours researching pipes and the inner machinations of the beautiful pipes that you take for granted. While we are grateful, Mr. Mad Scientist, my mind melted trying to understand just your introduction to thermodynamics.

I am sure you have met at least one of these people in your pipe travels, and probably in other situations, and I am also sure you have met even more ridiculous fellows than these. Let's hear about 'em!

Trever Talbert wrote his own list of types of folks that are found on pipe forums, a story that can be found here and is perfect for a good laugh and is sadly accurate!


  1. It's amazing how we can all relate to these (of course) totally fictional characters Ethan!

    Thanks for the chuckle.

  2. See also:

  3. Ethan, a fine synopsis of the characters who permeate pipedom! Thanks for the insight, and I hope you enjoy that Dunhill Dublin. Cheers, Kashmir.

  4. I'm glad you enjoyed it! I mean none of these as insults, just observations.

  5. Where the hell is the "Talkative Weirdo?" Geez. The Talkative Weirdo Community is making marginally-comprehensive signs in which to protest.

    PS, I like how you summed up most forums about pipes, too. Unless this was intentional and/or inspiration.