Survival instinct : Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine

Survival instinct

editors-desk header photoA recent brush with tornados here in North Carolina made me realize it was time to stop procrastinating and make sure my pipes were insured, so I called my insurance agent, Bill. It took a few minutes to convince him I was serious.

“So these are wooden instruments,” he said, “that you fill with tobacco and set on fire? Well, I think fire insurance is out.”

“Only the tobacco burns,” I said. “I’ve had some of these pipes for 30 years. They hold up fine, but they probably wouldn’t survive a house fire.”

“I’ve seen pipes in stores,” said Bill, “and they cost about $20. Your current insurance would cover that.”

“That’s what my wife thinks. But some of these pipes were handmade by skilled artists. Some have sentimental value. Some were gifts. I’ve actually been there and watched as some of them were made. They aren’t all valuable, but every one is an excellent smoker. They’re like fine art: totally irreplaceable.”

“So what’s their estimated value?”

That was a tough question. How do you place a monetary value on something that brings such contentment, something that has been a friend for decades? “I guess if I had to start collecting all over again from nothing and build a similar collection, it would take about a year’s salary.”

He whistled. “For pipes? That’s impressive. Wait—I’m looking at your financial statement now. Your salary is … oh my. I paid more than that for my dining room furniture.”

“Hey, I get a lot of perks too. I can smoke in my office—can you do that?”

“I don’t smoke.”

“You have a hobby?”

“I like scuba diving.”

“OK, imagine you could scuba dive in the most beautiful diving environment in the world right in your office any time you wanted—wouldn’t that be worth a lot to you?”

“That would cost millions.”

“Right, then you see my point.”

I could hear Bill drumming his fingers on his desk. “We’ll have to add a rider to your current insurance,” he said. “You’ll need to submit a list of pipes, a professional appraisal and photos. Oh, and receipts—do you have receipts for all of them?”

I shuddered. “I destroy those receipts immediately. I burn them, soak the ashes in lye and bury them in a landfill two counties away. If my wife knew what I spend on pipes this conversation would be between you and her, and it would be about collecting my life insurance.”

“With a proper appraisal we can omit the receipts, but your wife will need to sign off on it too. She’s on the home policy. She’ll have to see their value.”

“Are you suggesting I tell my wife what my pipe collection is worth?”

“No way around it.”

“So if my pipes are destroyed in a house fire, I get nothing to replace them without her signature?”


I thought for a moment, weighing my options. Life without my pipes was hard to imagine, but that was merely a worst-case possibility. The consequences should I reveal their value were indisputable: My wife is very imaginative, and my death would be excruciating and its illegality undetectable. “Forget I called,” I said. “Let ’em burn.”

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Category: Editor's Desk, Fall 2011

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