“Do you have a light?”
I thought that was a decent answer. Polite, direct. The guy behind me answered, “No, I don’t smoke.” Is that necessary? He could have paused before and stressed the “I,” creating admonishing undertones in his answer. At least that would have had a point, albeit an unsolicited and poorly targeted one. Otherwise, he might as well have said, “No, my shoelaces are untied.” The relationship between one’s smoking status and lighter ownership is, of course, stronger than that between one’s shoelace status and lighter ownership. But both comments are equally tangential to the fact of the matter. “Smoker, regardless of what I am, what I am NOT is helpful to you in lighting your cigarette. Now here is some information about the contents of my pockets.”
Fine. After a few reps of my mental eye rolling exercise, I realized the guy's response could have been his version of friendliness. An attempt to reach out and offer something extra, a personal touch in his brief interaction with this stranger lacking fire, standing outside a bar on a drizzly Chelsea night.