Cloves, Hookahs, and Other Non-Cigarettes. – By Joe Bunting
I was still in high school the first time I saw someone smoking a clove. I thought he was a heathen. My conclusion: cloves must be like cigarettes for pot smokers.
I had to go to a Christian college to see how wrong I was. The Christians who smoked cigarettes at my SoCal Christian college were outcasts, pariahs. They might as well have been Democrats (some of them were Democrats). Our campus was tobacco free. To smoke their sticks of sin they had to go hide in the “smoker’s bush” where they wouldn’t be caught by security, but we all knew their shameful secret. They came back reeking of guilt.
Cloves, however, were another matter. Cloves, compared to soul- and body-destroying cigarettes, smelled like a warm summer breeze through a flower garden. They weren’t “real” cigarettes. The box even denied it—they were cigarillos. We would go down to the beach beside a resort for the disgustingly wealthy and smoke them while watching the waves break. It was what the cool Christians did.
Later, Dr. New Testament told our class that he smoked hookah. What the heck is hookah, we asked. “It’s a water pipe with a very weak tobacco,” he informed us. We stared in shock.
Why don’t you tell us what it really is, Dr. New Testament? It’s a BONG! You’re telling us you smoke a hippie peace-pipe bong, Dr. Christian-Professor-Sir?
Despite our initial horror, all we wanted was for Dr. New Testament to invite us over to smoke with him. What could be better? You’re doing something that looks really terrible, like smoking a bong, BUT in reality it’s totally okay because it’s not even real tobacco. Besides, you’re doing it with your New Testament professor. It looks like sinning, but you get a pat on the back and a gold star instead of eternal damnation.
We didn’t get invited to his house to smoke his hookah. Instead, we found a Persian restaurant called Zaytoon’s and smoked it until we felt dizzy and sophisticated. We were guiltless. We didn’t reek of foul-smelling smoke. We smelled like Cherry Sunrise and Vanilla Grapefruit and Coca-Cola Clove and other rejected Starburst flavors. It was wonderful.
Who cares that, despite my professor’s proclamation, hookahs contain the same amount of tobacco as a cigarette, and maybe even more because of how you smoke it? So what if cloves are 70% tobacco, and because of the throat-numbing qualities of the cloves, some people think you inhale more lung-killing smoke than in a normal cigarette? It didn’t matter because you didn’t smell like cigarettes. That’s the difference between transcendent holiness and unredeemable spiritual delinquency. I’m pretty sure it’s in one of Paul’s letters.
Through my college and post-college years, I experimented with cigars, pipes, and menthol cigarettes. (They’re not real cigarettes, right? They smell like mint.) But whenever someone offers me a real cigarette?
“Ewwwwww. Gross, no. I don’t smoke those things. Are you even a Christian?”
Have you ever experienced the Christian clove phenomenon?
For more great stuff from Joe Bunting, check out his blog, The Write Practice.