Take a look at this animated image for a minute. The serenity and intensity of the image speaks to the very core of a real hookah smoker. Smoking hookah is about sharing an experience with good friends and enjoying the feeling of having the worry and tension from the day dissolve. Even in the blurred background you can see the smiles and laughter. Don’t mess it up for everyone by being a hookah hog.
I’ve mentioned the basic courtesies of sharing a hookah with friends that you should observe, but there are some basic body language signs that you should look out for. These will tell you a lot more about what your guests are feeling than even their words will at times. Bear in mind, I am always writing this from the point of view of the host. It’s my hookah and my responsibility to make sure everyone enjoys the session.
The grimace: This facial expression can occur for a few different reasons and tell you a lot of different things. If the smoker takes a full draw, exhales and crinkles their nose while pursing or smacking their lips, it can mean that the flavor does not suit their tastes or has gone off in some way. If the smoker cringes and squints their eyes during a draw that usually means that the smoke is harsh. The bowl could be burning and your heat may need to be adjusted or your tobacco may be spent and it is time to pack another bowl. Take special care to look out for this one as some people are too kind to say anything and risk insulting you.
The lean: This is usually a lean forward in the direction of the person with the hose. It can be very subtle or very pronounced, but both mean the same thing. This person is anxious to smoke and wants the hose passed to them. This is sometimes accompanied by the eye dart.
The eye dart: This motion is the most subtle of all the expressions and motions mentioned here. It is also the hardest to pick up on unless you are looking for it. Some people will dart their eyes toward something that they want and if their eyes land on the hose for a moment it can mean a lot. Expect to see this one a lot when you have a hog in the rotation.
The lounger: This is, most often, a good sign. When your guests start to lean back and relax with a contented look on their faces that means that you are doing your job and the session is putting them at ease. Some people will place their hands across their stomach with interlaced fingers, behind their head or limp at their sides. This person will usually be waiting patiently and be happily surprised when the hose gets back to them. This is not a sign to pass them over.
The worried lounger: This is quite different from the lounger in one very important way. This lean is not accompanied by a look of contentment, rather a look of worry and discomfort. This is usually a sign that your guest is feeling a bit ill or uneasy and that the smoke may be getting to them. Their hands may be lightly touching their stomachs without being interlaced or placed firmly on their thighs as if to ground themselves. Make sure to have plenty of stomach settling foods and drinks to offer them. Make sure that it is known that they can pass on the hose without seeming rude.
The thinker: This is similar to the worried lounger in that it is a bad sign. This person is leaning forward with their elbows resting on their thighs and their eyes closed into a grimace. One or both hands may be raised to support the head or cover the face/mouth. This is the final warning sign before some people make a break for the bathroom. They could just be feeling tired or dizzy, but they should be allowed the option of passing the hose to the next person either way. Make good judgment calls. If a person looks like they are about to spew, don’t give them the hose even if they say that they are fine. Bravado is the downfall of many.
Each smoker is different and will react differently, but you need to be aware of these basic signs. Make sure to open communication up so that you can learn each smoker’s habits and know what they are feeling at any given moment.
And, seriously, how awesome is that picture?