Surely the majority of us pipe smokers, at least once, have been the target of a dirty look or rude comment directed at our habitual puffing. Being a pipe smoker just isn’t as cool these days as being an organic farmer or gluten-free baker. Most of the time rude comments and dirty looks are hurtful, but after the fact, they are often good for a laugh as well. About a year ago, Jon and I had a smoke together, and subsequently a run in with the law. Here’s what happened:
A Sunny Afternoon
Since neither of us have a screened in wrap-around porch or a finely appointed smoking room (yet), the great outdoors tends to be our favorite place to light up a bowl of fine leaf. There is a sort of “deck” extending from the building in suburban New Jersey where the both of us lived at the time. The view from there isn’t too bad, just a parking area for the local residents, but with an old stone church within eyeshot and some greenery here and there. We decided to step out on the deck for a smoke. We’ve done this on many occasions without any trouble, but on this particular occasion last year, things got a little bit sticky. Everything was grand; we were lighting up some Latakia blends, enjoying their sweet and spicy fragrances, and relaxing in the cool breeze. Conversation continued over about half a bowl’s time, when we noticed something a bit out of place. A Crown Victoria had pulled up to the entrance of the parking area, but had not driven all the way in. We could see the black and white front of what we knew was a police cruiser peeking out from behind the adjacent house. Nothing to be alarmed about, but even more strange was that a moment later another cruiser pulled up to the other side of the lot. We wondered if something had happened; maybe there had been a shoplifter at the local consignment shop that shares the parking area? Our conversation came to a halt as the cruisers slowly but simultaneously pulled further into the lot, and encompassed our vantage point. Jon turned to me, “you don’t think…” Sure enough, the car doors opened and two sunglass-wearing shiny headed policemen stepped out of their cars, hands resting on their glocks, and said “Come down slowly!”
I have to interject here and say that the two of us are bearded men, and we were smoking from briar pipes, not scrawny teenagers puffing on glass bongs. I’m sure you can see where this is going.
Not looking for a fight, the both of started descending the stairs slowly and holding our hands (and pipes) in that awkward “I don’t have a gun” sort of fashion. This apparently wasn’t good enough, because the officer with the shinier of the two heads then said:
“Put down the pipes!”
“They’re tobacco pipes, officer, we don’t-”
“I said put them down!”
Don't Scratch My Pipe
We looked at each other, then at our precious Stephen Downie commissioned briars, then at the gravelly parking area we were standing in. Oh, the humanity! I think we both silently asked God to forgive us for what we were about to do, then in what must have been the most obnoxiously slow and cautious way the officers had ever seen, we began sweeping the parking lot with our hands and trying to make a suitable spot on the asphalt on which to lay our pipes. After gingerly laying them on the ground, and wincing at the thought, we stood up again to see the puzzled looks on their faces. Hands still on their pistols, the shinier one again piped up, in a slightly more relaxed tone:
Officer: “What do you think you’re doing?”
Us: “We’re smoking; these are tobacco pipes.”
Officer: “Show me.”
Oh, great! You made us put them on the asphalt and now you want to see them! We were both mad but we held our tongues. Picking them up again, we showed them the inside of the bowls. It only took a sniff for them to realize we were telling the truth. Not to lose face, he said “Someone called us in…said you were smoking pot out here. Why don’t you use a little common sense and keep it in the house next time.” We didn’t know what to say. It’s our legal right to smoke outdoors, but there was no point arguing. We mumbled something of a confirmation, and that was that. They got back in their cars and left.
Sadly, we had to find a new smoking spot.