Sam Venable  

Special Contributor

Pipe-smoking and leaf-raking are two autumn activities Type-A people should avoid at all costs.

Trust your Uncle Blood Pressure on this matter. Pipe-smoking and leaf-raking both demand a great degree of patience. We Type-A’s can’t even define that word, let alone practice it.

I smoked a pipe for three or four of the 10-12 years I spent as prisoner of war to tobacco. Tried to smoke it, that is. Ours was a relationship destined for failure from the beginning.

Dedicated pipe smokers are quiet, calm, collected Type-B’s. They enjoy the foreplay of smoking—selecting a pipe that fits their particular mood, packing the bowl with a custom blend, applying a “cool” match, ad nauseam—much more than the hit of nicotine they get at the peak of arousal.

For a closet Type-A masquerading as a pipe-smoker, this is pure torture. We’d rather have our tobacco wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am style.

That’s why we pack our pipes like soldiers loading a 105 howitzer.

It is why we torch the bowl to a red-hot coal.

It is why we suck on the stem with the force of two Texas tornadoes and inhale to the most distant lobe of our lungs.

It is why we then throw everything—the pipe tools, the pipe cleaners, the exotic blends, the imported briars—into the trash, good $#%! riddance, and run to the nearest convenience store for a pack of cheap-thrill Marlboros.

We have the same problem raking leaves.

If you believe the fiction of Norman Rockwell, leaf-raking is a contemplative exercise practiced in the crisp air of a color-splashed New England afternoon. Hah! For a born-and-bred Type-A fat boy, nothing could be further from the truth.

We try. Honest we do. We step into the yard, rake in hand, and survey the rainbow of golds, reds, oranges and yellows at our feet. Aaaah, we say to ourselves; what a wonderful, calm way to spend an October day!

Gently, we flit the rake along the edge of the sidewalk.

Methodically, we subject the tines to the exposed roots and gnarled base of an ancient maple tree.

Sensuously, we explore the flower bed.

It is sooooooo peaceful, soooooo refreshing . . . and then we come loose at the hinges. We run out of patience and attack the job like a John Deere combine in 40 acres of soybeans:

Rake-rake-rake-rake-rake-rake-rake!

Must-finish-this-job-for-Heaven’s-sake!

Rake-jerk-slash-hack-jab-crash-boom!

If-I-work-fast-I’m-done-by-noon!

Oh, I suppose there is one saving grace for Type-A’s. Raking gives us instant gratification in its purest form.

We drag the tines through a layer of leaves—grrrruuuup!—and expose a Kelly-green swatch of grass.

Another grrrruuuup! and there are two swatches.

Again and again we grrrruuuup! And the verdant front yard we last saw in September reappears in our wake.

But satisfaction is ever-so-fleeting. Ten minutes after our last grrrruuuup! the wind kicks up. More leaves rain down. Our brilliant green lawn goes undercover once more.

That is why you should never sneak up on a Type-A as he is furiously raking leaves on a windy day and make a stupid comment along the lines of, “Y’know, you’re probably gonna have to do this job all over next week.”

This is a particularly foolish thing to say if you happen to be smoking a pipe.

Sam Venable is an author, stand-up comedian, and humor columnist for the Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel. He may be reached at .