Why I Keep A Zippo With Me At All Times / by Dale Goldberg

I don’t smoke. Never have and never will. Never saw the appeal although I understand why some have fallen victim to its addictive nature.

Despite my aversion to smoking, some are surprised to learn that I keep a Zippo lighter in my pocket at all times. Any time I leave the house, it goes with me. It’s silver metallic and I love the unmistakable click it makes when you flip the lid open. If I’m stuck on a problem in the edit room or just need a moment to think about something, I’ll often flick it open and shut repeatedly just so I can hear the clicking sound. Somehow it relaxes me and helps me think.

It annoys the heck out of my wife, though. She asked me one time why in the world I kept the damn thing in my pocket to begin with. “You don’t smoke,” she said annoyed. “What’s the point?”

The first time I worked on a film set, like any other greenhorn I wanted impress the people I worked for. If you’ve ever been new at anything, you know what I’m talking about. You hope you do well and impress someone because that’s the only way you’re gonna’ get hired again. I was excited but nervous as hell.

At one point, I was on lockdown duty at a street corner and one of the A.D.’s approached me. I tensed up and got ready to say something smart when he asked me if I had a lighter on me.

Well, I was dumbstruck. No amount of smartness was gonna save me in that moment. I do not smoke and the simple fact of the matter was I had no reason to have a lighter on me. So no. I did not have a light.

But just across the parking lot, the Grip truck was open and one of the Grips was unloading the truck. Lo and behold, he did have a light. He whipped it out, held out the flame, and let the A.D. get his fix.

They then spent the next five minutes talking to each other about the weather, frustrations with the current gig, and what jobs they were taking on next.

Whether that Grip was hired again, I do not know, but do you think the A.D. remembered that Grip? I bet he did. Do you think he remembered me? Probably not.

It’s not that I did a bad job or anything. I held that corner and no shots were ruined that day. But really, any monkey can do that. The question is whether I did anything memorable that made me stick out as someone more useful than a monkey. And I’d say, in that case, no. I was about as memorable as vanilla flavored ice cream.

So in that moment I decided, I would always keep a lighter in my pocket. Because you never know if your boss, an actor or anyone else you’re trying to impress will ask you for one.

Ironically, no one since then has ever asked me for a light but that’s ok. The Zippo itself has always served as a reminder to me to be what I call the three p’s:

Be proactive.
Be prepared.
Be a problem solver.

Be that person at your job that is undeniably useful. Who is always there with a solution and taking proactive steps to solve problems before they happen.

Now, arguably, denying someone their nicotine fix is probably more of a solution than a problem but I think you know what I’m saying. The Zippo reminds me to make sure others recognize me as being proactive and prepared rather than forgettable and average.

So if you ever hear me clicking that lid open and shut and wonder why I have it in the first place, I’m thinking of ways to be proactive for whatever job it is I’m working on. That’s why I keep a Zippo in my pocket.