When I was in University, I didn’t have a mobile phone, email, or internet access. Most people didn’t. There was no TXTing, no IMing, no poking people on Facebook, and certainly no twittering. The way you met new and interesting people was by smoking. I’m serious. If you wanted to become friends with random cool people, you’d make sure you had a well-fueled Zippo and you’d practice opening it SHINK, lighing it KTCHSH, and closing it KHLUP.
SHINK KTCHSH KHLUP. SHINK KTCHSH KHLUP. SHINK KTCHSH KHLUP
That sound was an advertisement to people within earshot that 1) you were a fellow smoker, 2) that you had fire, and 3) that you might even have an extra cigarette. “Hey, got a light?” was the opening line to many friendships and relationships.
How you lit your Zippo was part of your personality. Some people did it one handed, some people liked to snap their fingers over the flint to create the fire magically, and others could open and light their Zippos off their jeans in one fluid motion. The crazy ones would pour a bit of lighter fluid in the palm of their hands and let it go up in a short burst.
The design of the Zippo was another expression. There were lighters from headshops with skulls and pot leaves and Harley logos. Some were monogrammed, some were gold and ornate, and most were just plain stainless steel. But they all did the job of lighting a cigarette for a fellow addict in need and sparking conversation.
Today I don’t smoke. I have an iPhone with ubiquitous internet access, email, and unlimited texting. There’s a program for every flavour of instant messaging service. There’s a decent Facebook application. And then there’s the Twitter app Tweetie: the new Zippo lighter.
Let me explain: So today, instead of wanting to be friends with social malcontents who are trying to start grunge bands, I want to be friends with geeks. Geeks know a lot of stuff about a lot of stuff, so there’s always something to learn or to talk about. And how do you break the ice with a cool geek? Easy. Get Tweetie for iPhone. Instead of walking up to a total stranger and asking “Got a light?” you say “Hey, aren’t you @[insert Twitter username here] who just tweeted about [insert topic here]? That was hillarious. I’m @jted.” Then you shake hands and the rest is history.
For example, at a recent Chuck Palahniuk reading in Toronto I was using Twitter to broadcast a few choice quotes from the author. Out of curiosity I used Tweetie to do a search for users also talking about Chuck. I was surprised to find 5 or 6 people in the audience broadcasting snippets of what Palahniuk was saying and what was happening in the room. A few of them had photographic avatars , and by tapping on them I could see a full-screen picture of their faces. After the show I recognized one of them talking to a group of friends. I thought it was crazy that Tweetie could transform a random stranger into someone I not only recognized, but shared a sense of humour with. I never did talk to the guy. But the point is that I could have. I was in a bit of a hurry that day…
Zippos have engraved images; Tweetie shows your avatar. Zippos smell like lighter fluid; Tweetie smells like a cheap iPhone application. Zippos attract smokers; Tweetie uses the built in GPS to find fellow Twitterers via the Nearby button. Zippos can be used for flaming parlour tricks; Tweetie’s Trends button can be used to read the collective mind of human consciousness. Now if only Tweetie could make that SHINK KTCHSH KHLUP sound…