'That's a cool lighter', he thought.

The Zippo has always been an object of fascination ever since the Hipposaur was a gawky teenager. In his college daze, fascination turned to fixation when he saw a friend perform tricks with a funny looking metal lighter he had seen somewhere. In no time he realised that the lighter was indeed the venerable Zippo, a fixture in any Vietnam film coming out of Hollywood. What a nifty looking object, he thought, as GIs on screen lit joints and wielded cutaway bullets on their fireboxes. There were, however some problems.

Firstly, you could not really buy a Zippo, since they were usually sold on the grey market at unheard of prices. Secondly, and more importantly; the young Hipposaur was a college kid, you know? Twenty Rupees was the daily allowance, man. So the Zippo remained a distant fantasy, to be revered and respected. Shortly, the Hipposaur came to know of some shops that stocked working replicas of the original article. They were being sold for 150 Rupees a pop.

Unsurprisingly, over a period of two years, the Hipposaur managed to amass a collection of four replicas. They overheated and drank fuel faster than you could fill 'em. Yet the revered Zippo, as made in Bradford, Pennsylvania was still out of his wallet's reach.

Now turned into a gawky adult, the embers of Zippomania had pretty much died down. Until a few days back, when a visit to Hyderabad led to a dinner invitation at an old friend's place. Post dinner, the friend produced a Zippo, mint boxed and untouched by hand and casually tossed the box over to the Hipposaur's hand. 'I've never used it, take it man,' he said.

Coming to the result of this generous gesture, the Zippo came in a standard black cardboard presentation box. The box was lined in soft felt inside and had the company name and address printed on the outside. The lighter was a High Polish Chrome model from the standard production series, with a price tag that read $18.99.

The High Polish Chrome model has been one of the longer running finishes offered by the company, and while it is considered a fingerprint magnet of sorts, the lighter actually ages well, with scratch marks shaping the personality of each Zippo over the years. Each lighter, as with all Zippos is guaranteed for life and really holds up well against wear and tear. Its ability to be lit under a range of climatic conditions, breeze and temperatures make it suitable for the outdoors. Small wonder that all those army folks have had a long association with the bespoke Zippo.

The lighter at hand, being a standard model bears a date code that reads B 09 (February 2009). It features a solid brass body electroplated with a chrome finish. Nothing fancy, just a basic no-nonsense lighter that would last for years if handled properly. While the Zippos have attained a cult status, thanks to their collectibility; they nevertheless remain a useful tool to toss into your pocket.

Of course, the buggers are temperamental objects, too. They'll demand your attention and need to be refilled from time to time. The tiny flint that makes the spark for your fire will wear out and require replacement. You'd probably need to take the whole darned thing apart and give it a good cleaning every five years or so. And all the while, even as you're performing your ritualistic flint replacement, there's a good chance that you would lift your head up from where you're sitting, take a look around and remember to take life a little easy.

Tough as nails, the Zippo perhaps remains one of the last few things which, much like fountain pens, mechanical watches and single malts remind you to slow down. Perhaps for a brief moment, even make you reconsider getting rid of that old pair of denims that could have lasted a few weeks more. More than being a hard-to-light fire starter, the Zippo is one of those small lessons you come across in life - a hardy little symbol that refuses to give in to our binge-buying-disposable habits.

Like all good things in life, you have to earn your first Zippo experience.


Priya Ramachandran said...

Wise words from an enamoured man indeed! Finally the elusive Zippo made it's way into your pocket. I'm happy for you! What's next, a Victorinox Swiss knife? Line the two next to your fountain pens and we have a certified gentleman :)

Fully grown fuzzy Hipposaur said...

Thanks! We are pleased to report that the aforementioned knife is one among many accouterments the Hipposaur wishes to accumulate / persuade friends to part with in the near future.

Jayeeta Mazumder said...

Amazing lessons to be learnt from this write-up. So, a ZIPPO, huh? Awesome!!!

Sarit said...

I like :)