How Two Toddlers With Kaopectate Made Me Quit Smoking

In Smokin’, I talked about how, when I was 10 years old, I willed myself to become the Marlboro Man. A reader was kind enough to respond with, “Dude! You left me hanging there at the end. Did you manage to make it through? Are you a smoker today? Give me more!!!”

So here’s the story of how, why and when I quit smoking:

By the time I was twelve years old I was smoking a pipe. It was lame, and embarrassing, and I had to do it in private, but I was really very fond of tobacco—and a pure tobacco experience means smoking either a pipe or a cigar. And I knew I didn’t want to be a twelve-year-old Al Capone. So a pipe it was.

Pipe smokers tend to collect pipes, and I was no exception. By the time I was seventeen, I had my collection down to the five pipes I liked best. That’s where I drew the line: five. I figured anything after five pipes just couldn’t be about the tobacco anymore.

Man, I liked those pipes. I still remember each one exactly. I’d lost some good pipes to get it down to those five.

At seventeen years old, I got a job as a live-in nanny (or, as I used to call myself, a manny) to the two two-and-a-half-year-old sons of a scion of one of the world’s wealthiest families. These people were as wealthy as wealthy gets.

How wealthy were they?! you ask? Well, here’s just the smallest example of the kind of money these folks had: At around eleven o’clock one Saturday night the husband and wife of the family got into a fight. The husband stormed out of the house with nothing on him but the slacks and sports shirt he was wearing.

Five days later a new, huge, golden Mercedes pulled into the driveway. It was husband. He was back. He was wearing a shiny, full-length fur coat. He hauled four or five large Louis Vuitton suitcases out of the car’s trunk. We learned he had been to Paris. His wife rushed into his arms. All was well again.

Anyway, this couple hired me as a live-in caretaker for their two boys. And by “caretaker,” I mean I never left those boys, 24/7. Wake ’em up, clean ’em, feed ’em, change ’em, dress ’em, teach ’em, clean up after ’em, hang out with ’em, put ’em to bed, wake ’em up in the morning, love ’em the whole time … same as any parent does.

I lived with the boys in the downstairs part of the house; there was nothing down there but them, me, and more toys galore. I slept in a little room just off the boys’ bedroom.

I used to keep my pipes in a rack that I kept on a small table beside my bed.

One morning I woke up to find that the boys had woken up before me. I knew this because I saw that someone had been doing something to my pipes. Having just awakened in the dim morning light, it took me a bit to figure out exactly what.

It turned out that the two boys had taken my pipes, one by one, and dipped them in Kaopectate. And showing a thoroughness, manual dexterity, and attention to detail I’d never noticed them exhibiting in anything else they’d ever done, they had also very carefully filled to the brim each of my pipes’ bowls with that same lovely diarrhea-thwarting product.

The boys were thrilled about their accomplishment. They were positive I would respond to it with a gratifying show of enthusiasm. I’m not sure if I let them down or not.

I do know there was no saving my pipes. Once it hardens, Kaopectate is like Liquid Bowling Ball. For a while I tried to dig and scrape the stuff out of the bowls and stems of my pipes, but it was hopeless.

I was too bummed about the fate of my beloved pipes to ever buy another one, or really ever smoke tobacco again. As young as I was, even I understood that once toddlers dunk your pipes in Kaopectate, it’s time to leave smoking behind, and move on.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • stellabella

    You know, I just started reading your blog. And I really like reading your blog!

  • Well, that's awfully nice to hear. Thank you. I appreciate that very much.

  • Tam

    Manny? I like it – good term!

    Listen here: children and Keopectate don't mix well.

  • Skerrib: What the heck IS that?? Is that a SONG??

  • Aw, man…it's the theme song to Charles In Charge!

  • “The new boy in the neighborhood,

    lives downstairs and it’s understood,

    he’s there just to take good care of me,

    like he’s one of the family.

    [John Shore] in charge, of our days and our nights

    [John Shore] in charge, of our wrongs and our rights, and I see

    I want, I want, I want [John Shore] in charge of me.”

  • FreetoBe

    That was just wrong! Here I am at work, trying not to *snork* and fall out of my chair! People are staring!

  • Skerrib: How funny. I KNEW that's what it was. That show was on during a time in my life when I didn't have a TV–I don't think I've ever seen it–but I STILL thought that's what it most likely was.

    Too funny.

    FreetoBe: Tell them you're having a low-sugar fit. Maybe they'll throw snacks at you!

  • Catherine M. Howell

    Hilarious story.

  • Elizabeth

    JS – I am laughing so hard tears are streaming down my face!!!!! Wonder what those two will be doing as grown ups????

  • Actually, I very recently tracked down and emailed one of the two boys. He is now a singer/songwriter in Los Angeles. The other boy, his brother told me, runs a business in Arizona. Their parents are divorced. Bad for them. Maybe not bad if you're a hotelier in Paris.

  • So funny!

  • thereisnogray

    I always wondered why Kaopectate worked so well. The "liquid bowling ball" description really cleared it up for me.

    You know, I could always count on a swig of Kaopectate (right out of the bottle, naturally!) to resolve all of those inconvenient trips to the bathroom. Of course one swig too many and I was guaranteed to not visit the bathroom for days on end. But, that's a small price to pay.

  • Thereisno: Thanks for sharing! Sort of.

  • windyblue

    Well that's one way of stopping. Seeing some one die of cancer, and the effects it has on a person, would really turn some people off from smoking. Doing the relay for life, and looking at all the luminaries, for all who have lost there lives to cancer will get one to think too.

    Plus, the price of a pack of cigarettes wow. My father was a pipe smoker. And I believe that was part of the reason he died. His lungs must have been as black as a piece of coal.

  • LOL

    That was good!

  • John,

    Easily the funniest post on smoking I've ever read.

    This adds a whole new level to the cliche "put that in your pipe and smoke it."

  • montanaflynn

    Those boys may have saved your life, who know's how messed up your health would be.

  • John,

    Seeing your picture, you sure don’t look like a smoker.


    P.S. Glad you gave it up. Both my father and grandfather died from cancer, directly related to their smoking.

  • Excellent conclusion, John.

    Never been into the pipe. I'm a Camel Turkish Silver man.



  • Michael

    Hi John;

    Cool story. I smoked for 17 years. Then one day I got this lump in my throat. It felt like an apple core. Drove me nuts. I went to all kinds of drs they couldnt feel it or see it. I knew it was there. It scared the you know what out of me. So I put them down and never smoked another one. Its been 3 years now. Im really glad I dont smoke any more my wife and I are having twins a boy and a girl.My dad smoked and I dont want them thinking that its ok to. As a matter of fact I will not even eat near a smoking area. (they say ex smokers are the worst about it). As for the lump ,turns out it was stress of all things I had muscle spasms in my throat. I had a niece living with me at the time thats a hole nother story. But she was driving me crazy to the point she made me have throat spasms. See what you get for holding it in.LOL. Anyways I thank God for letting me get so stressed out at one thing and use that to help me quit such a bad thing. Cool how he works huh I justh ope I did it soon enough. Thanks for all your blogs I love them.


  • Hjordes

    Hilarious blog!

  • It is a sad thing to see good pipes go.

  • that is the funniest "how I quit smoking" story I've ever read!

    And Michael (#21): ex smokers are the worst about smoking. Two examples… my dad quit smoking in 1966. He had gotten up to three packs a day just at work. He went on vacation and when he returned, he no longer had the desire to smoke. Until the day he died, he crabbed at my mother about her smoking, to the point where she had to go outside her own house to smoke.

    also… a friend of mine quit smoking after taking up the habit in college. Cold turkey, just like my dad. One of his duties at his job is to clean out the "smoking pole" (because he works in a non smoking environment). He hates doing that with every fiber of his being. He told me one that smoking was a nasty habit and the smokers could freeze their buns off in the winter and he wouldn't care. I said "spoken like a true ex smoker". He was surprised. That is when he told me that he once smoked himself.

    Neither me or my sister smokes. Our mom has COPD because of her smoking. And she still doesn't get it.

  • As your experience is a rare one, we cannot always rely on imp/angels to stick it to us, and help us make up our mind. For those of us not so blessed, the technique we recommend is to count to 3. Just quit smoking for 3 seconds, praise yourself upon your success, and advance to 3 minutes, 3 hours, 3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months, and 3 years. After 3 years, see how it feels and make up your mind. The only really tough one is 3 days. That's because your body struggles throughout to restore its acid-alkali balance. Once restored, it becomes easier and easier.

  • TAB

    I really enjoy how uninformed the general public is when it comes to smoking. Is smoking safe and/or healthy? No. But pipe smoking is in no way as dangerous as cigarette smoking. Furthermore, most pipe smokers don’t inhale, pipe tobacco isn’t meant to be smoked that way. Most pipe smokers I know have lived long, healthy lives. I’m a pipe smoker, but I would venture to guess that I am healthier than most of you. I work out 4-5 days a week, and ride my bicycle (on a long ride) at least one day a week in addition to general commuting/errands. On a recent hike in the Rocky Mountains, I left my “healthy non-smoking” friends in the dust. Yes, cigarettes are bad, but give pipes a break.