Saturday, January 10, 2009

Clichés and Prejudice

On my morning walk the other day, I stopped to empty the ash and small amount of dottle from my pipe. I looked at this little pile of remains and I thought, "If I were to come across that pile of ash and dottle on the trail, I would think- A pipe smoker has been here. He's out enjoying the wonders of nature. I bet he is an older gentleman, somewhat introspective, probably intelligent. A man that thinks and reads. A very interesting man." I filled my next pipe and walked on still thinking about this really wonderful (and totally fictitious) man when I saw a faded cigar band. "Now this fellow is a portly man. He's probably out for a walk on doctor's orders. A heart condition brought on by over-indulgences of various kinds.' I started looking for a body on the trail ahead. Poor man grasping his chest, wondering why he had tried to walk so far and thinking if he could just have a sip of bourbon he would be ok.
I walked on thinking about him for quite a while. Then on the path I spotted 2 cigarette butts in close succession. Ah, now this character was up to no good. Beady eyes, nervous. What was he doing out here? A drug deal I bet. Something illicit. I just hoped that children weren't involved. I hurried on my way hoping to catch this demon before he could do more harm. Soon I gave up the chase and started to ponder the notion that these were stereotypes that have somehow lodged in my brain. Why? Where did they come from? And why did I submit to them?
The 1st- the pipe smoker is easy. It's a comfortable, likable image. One of the reasons  I took up pipe smoking is because of this characterization. It was a skin I could wear and hope to fill out one day. The 2nd, the cigar smoker probably was reinforced by my visits to pipe and tobacco stores. There's always a group of sedentary guys sitting around and swapping stories. "Bourbon", "football" and possibly "grill some steaks" are words I pick up from their conversations. And then there's the cigarette smoker who has become a villain in our society. I'm surprised when I stop and think how I've fallen for this hatchet-job the antis have done. I've know a lot of cigarette smokers and there where some I thought evil, but many that were warm hearted and as friendly as could be.
Anyway ... this sure has me thinking ... and wondering too. What other stereo-types could be lurking in my head? Maybe I don't think enough ... have enough awareness. Maybe I don't deserve to be a pipe smoker. -T

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