A bright segment in the life of a pipe repairman : Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine

A bright segment in the life of a pipe repairman

by George Dibos

I once read a short story by Theodore Sturgeon called “Bright Segment.” I can barely remember the story itself, but the idea that people’s lives are fundamentally fueled by a never- ending desire to experience “bright segments”—extended moments of near-magical clarity and fulfillment that can’t be willed into existence or arranged for, but occasionally just happen—so perfectly explained human behavior that the term stuck with me for 40 years.
Most people might imagine that pipe repairmen have few such moments, but they would be wrong. Pipe smoking isn’t just a hobby for many; it’s a deep bond with once-living objects that become close friends. Patient, understanding, always available friends.



So it was for a gentleman I had never met but came to know through some of his pipes in a way that perhaps no one else has.
Throughout his life, he had purchased pipes to commemorate special events and personal achievements. That way, each time he’d choose one from the rack, he and the pipe would have memories to share and talk about while he filled and smoked it—passing the bar exam for example, or starting his own practice or winning his first big case. Patient, under- standing, always-available friends.
Decades passed, and one day he had to stop smoking for medical reasons. He didn’t want to put his friends in the dark prison of a drawer or closet, though, so he decided to mount the most meaningful ones on a plaque to hang in his office.
But he was a smoker, not a craftsman, and he wasn’t sure how to go about mounting them except by doing it literally. He glued them directly to a piece of furniture-grade hardwood with epoxy. In the process, the shank of one pipe shattered when he tried to shift its position after the glue had hardened more than expected, and that damage was repaired with epoxy. First, the stem was held in position with a few narrow strips of duct tape, and then the entire area was covered with a thick layer of epoxy to encase the shank like the cast on a skier’s leg.
It was a perfectly functional repair, but not a pretty one.
When he’d finished the project, though, he was happy. The pipes might be battered and bruised, but they had survived the ordeal and understood that good intention between



lifelong friends was all that mattered, and they didn’t complain. He had done his best. So, the gentleman and his pipes continued to share memories and have silent conversations every day. All he had to do was look up, and they were there. Patient, understanding, always-available friends.


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Category: Feature Article, Pipe Articles, Winter 2015

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