Among the many, many troubling problems facing contemporary society today is this one: match lighting.

People today don’t know how to light a match. And by “people,” I mean individuals under the age of, say, 45 years. Or maybe 30.

Apparently, we stopped teaching that skill. Have the Boy and Girl Scouts both gone out of business?

Or are we so fixed on all-things-retro that we no longer favor the friction-based safety procedure of striking sulfur to emery board?

Please know I am not arguing for a return to some syrupy and nostalgic time when things were presumably simpler and doubtlessly better. That would be, in this case, back when rubbing two sticks together was the fire-starter. Followed by the great evolutionary step involving flint and sparks.

Year after year I observed undergraduate students’ desperate inability to light a match during the initiation ceremony for an honors society.

They would all stand in a line, each with perfect posture, and each suitable for the high honor the ceremony demanded. Firmly clutching a candle, the honor society’s president would fumble the ceremony’s crucial step because she or he was unable to light a match.

This problem, of course, was all caused by the introduction of the modern lighter. Manufactured by Bic, I had always associated the brand with inexpensive ballpoint pens.

But, somehow, writing instruments became associated with fire-makers. The firm’s lighters, like their pens, became the savior of many a student.

Igniting the Bic lighter required an agile thumb that could, at once, roll the striker while depressing and holding the fuel release. But a Bic lighter on a windy day was worthless. Forget the Olympic challenge of three men on a match; a Bic in wind meant no lighting would occur.

And hence the lesson: the modern lighter’s unwitting marginalizing of the REAL lighter: Zippo.


No brag. Just fact.

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