I look like a guy who carries a lighter. I get asked, "Got a light?" "Trouble you for a light?" "Do have a match?" People forget how they set themselves up with this last question. "Yeah, your shirt and the 80’s." But some advice; make a connection before you quip.
I find that many people need me for lights. I consider it my avocation. So, most often, I carry matches. And in so doing, I give off the lighter-vibe. Perhaps its the pall left over from a decade and a half of cigarette smoking, that lean and hungry look ex-smokers never quite rid themselves of (even after a couple decades)—because as sure as if I carried an open can of naphtha gas, I’m sniffed out by people a half block away, which is about the range a match-carrier casts, I find.
Actually I carry matches in case I stumble into a day that is perfect for a cigar. Cigar weather. But I can wait for months for a day like that. When we still had cable I used to wait for Nancy on the weather channel to forecast: "Patches of light toward morning…and wow, if you wait until mid-afternoon it looks like it’ll be perfectly beautiful for a Cohiba! And I do wait. Cigar smokers are ponderous folk. Unlike people looking for a light.
The young man who asked me for a light today as I walked for coffee took my small Redbird matchbox, drew one match out, struck the side of the box and caught a flame on the third stroke. He cupped his hands around his mouth until smoke filled the hollow and flowed thick around his head before being whisked away in the wet air. Starting to hand the matches back he asked, "Do you want to see a trick?"
We were standing on the rain-shadow side of Norquest College and with the freshly lit cigarrette jammed deep between the index and middle fingers of his left hand he drew out two matches. He held one like a pencil, between his thumb and index and middle finger, and turned it horizontal; the second he rested between the index finger of his right hand and the end of the other match. In a second the resting match jumped to life, danced along the length of the match until it bounced off its perch. He smiled at me satisfied he’d earned his light. I puzzled and smiled back—not leaving. And then he showed me the secret.
And here, something surpassing the jumping match trick, is my friend Scout getting a light from the Olympic flame on Vancouver’s waterfront.