Toddlers Attack My Pipes!

In I, the Marlboro Man, 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 jettisoned some great pipes to get it down to those five.

At seventeen years old, I had a job as a live-in 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 huge 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 the husband. He was back. He was wearing a full-length fur coat. He hauled four or five large Louis Vuitton suitcases out of the trunk of his brand-new car. He had gone to 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. Love them the whole time.

I lived with the boys in the downstairs part of the house; there was nothing down there but them, me, and what looked like an annex of Toys R Us. I slept in a little room just off the boys’ bedroom.

I used to keep my pipes in a rack 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 didn’t quite, but … whatddaya gonna do? They’re kids.

There was certainly no saving my pipes. Once it hardens, Kaopectate becomes cement. 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, I still understood that once toddlers dunk your pipes in Kaopectate, it’s time to take the ol’ hint from God, and leave smoking behind.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Diana A.

    That was too funny!

  • Robert Meek

    Wonder if they ever remembered doing that. Too bad you didn't get a chance to thank them as young adults for saving you from a fate like mine.

  • Susan Golian

    Here I was expecting some heart-warming tale – perhaps you caught them imitating you and you had a sudden flash of insight and decided to stop smoking then and there…but, no. Kaopectate. How utterly Zen – and really funny. Thanks, John.

  • I started smoking cigars in high school & have continued on & off. I did smoke a pipe for about 4 or 5 years; the fun is more in the ritual of preparing & cleaning the pipe than the actual smoking itself. When my last bag of tobacco ran out I opted not to replenish it & just gave up the pipe. Cigars I smoke only occasionally now (and only if somebody else is buying!).

    My first job in LA was in a tobacco shop run by a sci-fi fan I was friends with; we'd never met prior to my coming out to LA but we participated in the same APA (amateur press association — what they used to have before there was the InterWebs). He taught me quite a lot about tobacco, pipes, and cigars.

    Cigarettes are what ruined tobacco. They turned it from a luxury to an addiction, and did so by literally promoting & selling the crappy low quality sweepings to mass consumers.

  • denver

    I thought you were going to say that the rich couple bought you some diamond-encrusted Pipe O' Swankyness to make up for their boys ruining yours. XD Quitting smoking is better. 🙂

  • Tim

    A manny? The crap you say. Don't suppose you got any residuals from Charles In Charge?

    When I was 17, I think I would've rather mowed a thousand wet lawns with a manual push mower on the hottest day of the year than change a diaper full of dookie. You is a different boyd, Mr. Shore.

  • Leslie

    If they had that much money, I'm curious why they hired a lost, insecure boy to look after their children. I'd probably hire a trained Montessori teacher or Mary Poppins or somebody.

  • Cuz they were insanely cheap. (And I wasn’t quite a lost, insecure boy. I actually had quite a bit of childcare experience. They liked the way I handled their boys … better than they did the other seven or eight candidates who, like me, had to spend the day with the boys and the parents while they observed.)