Ever since the Elizabethen days, pipe smokers have had to endure the self-righteous harrassment of the anti-smoking crowd. You would think, with five long centuries of periodic harrassment and ostracism, that we pipe smokers would be better prepared to respond to these puritanical busybodies when they take it upon themselves to publicly reprimand us for smoking our pipes. All too often, however, we are so taken aback by their rude and audacious behavior that we are struck speechless.
Most pipe smokers are gentlemen and deport themselves accordingly. We dislike aggressive behavior, and have no desire to engage in futile arguments with the nasty persons who confront us. I believe it is possible to act as gentlepeople without cowering meekly.
People who engage in this outrageous behavior are not really interested in our health or well-being. They wish to demonstrate their superiority to us. Their intention is to teach us a lesson. To humiliate us. There is no more sincere caring in their remonstrations than one would hear from an agitated rattlesnake.
Even in these Orwellian times, there are still a few, precious freedoms left to us. Where it is legal, we should be able to smoke our pipes in peace. We do not owe explanations or apologies to anyone who disturbs our peace.
Like Churchill and Twain, I have always taken a great deal of interest in the artfully crafted retort. I’ve developed a number of them so that I have one readily available in the event I am confronted by one of these radical anti-smoking, meddling jackasses. In any case, I am prepared to give them wit when they give me bile. Sadly, I have more than a little experience dealing with this situation, but sometimes things work out better than anticipated.
There is a park near my home where, on nice days, I sometimes go to read and smoke my pipe. There is a trail, beside which are benches and a lover’s swing covered by a small, cedar-shake pavilion. I was sitting there smoking my pipe and reading when a fit, twenty-something young woman jogged up the trail. She saw me, ran over, and – while jogging in place – scolded me, declaring, “Smoking will kill you, you know!”
I looked up from my book, took my pipe from my mouth, and said, “You really DO need to work on your flirting. As lines go, that is one of the worst I’ve heard.”
She stopped jogging and stood there, agape, shaking her head slightly. Then, she started laughing – a response that almost certainly surprised her as much as it did me. She turned and slowly started jogging away, turning her head back once to look at me, grinning. That was that.
It has long been one of my strategies to use my wit rather than responding in kind to someone’s aggressiveness, but like most of you, I suspect, when someone confronts me, I am sometimes struck dumb. My mental faculties slow to a glacial pace. So, in this case I prepared mentally in advance. I wrote some responses – all of which I have memorized – and I draw them like a rapier when self-defense warrants a response. Some are gentler and some are pointed barbs; I have found that range is necessary because some people deserve colder retorts than others.
Seven Ready Retorts
- Look, I have to smoke here. They don’t allow smoking at the asylum.
- I take great comfort that smoking may shorten my life, especially since you came along.
- Thankfully, there are no anti-ugly laws or you could never go outside.
- Is the circle of people who welcome your company so small that you have decided to recruit me?
- My God, you’re psychic! You’re channeling my Mother-in-Law!
- My smoking here may be some small infraction, but practicing medicine without a license is a felony.
- Typically the people who nag me about smoking have earned the privilege by satisfying my carnal desires. If you’re going to keep talking, could you bend over?