Right out of high-school I started work at a lumber company where (it seemed), every male employee used chewing tobacco. Not wanting to be the odd man out I decided to give it a whirl myself – the foul breath, stained teeth and receding gum-line notwithstanding.
So, one day on the way to work I picked up a can of Skoal wintergreen flavored smokeless tobacco and stuck it in my hip pocket. I immediately felt more of a man as the smooth round can pressed its outline against the pocket of my work jeans.
Upon arrival at work I received my instructions for the morning and then made my way to an isolated area behind several units of 2X12; I wanted to practice a bit with the snuff before making my lumber yard debut. I pulled out my snoose, eagerly sliced away the paper, pulled off the top, helped myself to a generous pinch… and proceed to loose my innocence.
I’d never used chewing tobacco before, but I had seen the ads – “just a pinch between the cheek and gum gives you real tobacco pleasure all day long.”
Now, I don’t know what part of your oral anatomy you consider the cheek, but to me – then and now – it’s that area just past the corner of the mouth extending to the region of the molars. So when I sat down behind the stacks of lumber with my open can of chew, I just naturally figured that the colossal wad I had “pinched” should go in that region previously described. Go there it did and I began to meet with problems immediately.
My salivary glands launched into overdrive as I struggled to keep the fine cut leaf from sliding down my throat. I had seen experienced chewers spit occasionally and figured I’d do the same. However, I found that the spittle ran from my moth in a continual stream and I watched with watering eyes as a brown frothy pool formed on the ground in front of me where I hung my head between my knees.
I’ve always been something of a perfectionist – a purest you might say – and so I was determined that the Skoal wintergreen fine cut would stay right there where the big boys had it; between the check and gum. I seemed to remember seeing chewers with a protruding lower lip indicating that the pinch was between “lip and gum” but by now my mind was swimming and in the absence of immediate evidence to the contrary I elected to stay the course.
After several minutes I decided that there was something wrong with the pioneer pinch of tobacco and so after fishing out the first soggy wad I stuck in another. Just then the intercom loudspeaker summoned me to the front desk for customer assistance.
I was a bit unsteady as I rose from my sanctuary, and I was having trouble disposing of the excess saliva in a timely manner: but I was determined to let the customer know that I was enjoying a chew while I manfully loaded lumber into his rig.
The patron met me just outside the door of the sales office and handed me the order. I reached with a trembling hand and was slightly chagrined to see tobacco juice running down my arm. I wiped the soiled arm across the back of my shirt and tried to smile, but the action caused the tobacco to shift toward the back of my throat and I narrowly suppressed a gag. He looked at me with an expression of slight disgust as I waved him over to the appropriate section of the yard.
When he pulled up in his pickup I noticed his comely teenage daughter in the cab. I positioned myself so that she might notice the can of chew in my hip pocket, paused a moment, and then tried to look in her general direction with an air of indifference. Then as I stooped to grab a-hold of the lumber, I was overcome by an involuntary fit of gagging and managed to spew brown froth across the surface of the number one select 1X8. The girl in the pickup locked her door and rolled up the window. I smiled as the brown liquid dribbled from the corners of my mouth.
As the day wore on I begin to think that the ability to dip snuff like the experts was an elusive chimera: and yet I pressed on. That is, until the owner of the company managed to place his forearm directly across a shimmering pool of brown spittle left lurking on top of a unit of 2X6. He immediately banned all chewing tobacco from the lumber yard.
Really though, it was alright with me. I was beginning to suffer from dehydration anyway…