Matchstick Diplomacy

On teaching Russians to use matches and other complicated procedures.

Matchstick Diplomacy
Photo by Yaoqi / Unsplash

 Teaching Russians about paper matches is not easy

One day, my Russian bride was trying to light a candle with a book of American-made matches, which she didn’t know how to operate.

No. Really!

She'd never seen matches made from paper in her life. She grew up in Northern Russia and, well, I suppose they just didn’t have paper matches, only superior wood matchsticks.

She got mad.

“AMERICAN! What are these things?”

Or words to that effect.

“Where are the matches?” she demanded. “Is this some kind of joke?”

Or words to that effect.

Her face glowed soviet red.

I measured my words carefully.

“Let me see what you are doing sweetheart.”

I gently took the book of matches and showed her how I do it. “You see, honey, you fold the paper back over the match, strike a spark, and then light the candle.”

I smile and return the matches. She did not reciprocate.

“See, honey. It’s simple. “Prosta!”

I said “prosta” because I had seen a guy on TV for a cellphone commercial that played on the Russian word for simple: Prosto (просто).

“You’re probably used to the wooden match…”

Before I could finish, she stormed off mumbling something about her grandmother being right about the poor Americans who lived under bridges.

I reminded her that we most certainly did not live under a bridge.

She continued her stomping and such.

Sometime later…

Eventually, her parents made their way from the motherland to the "land-without-wooden-matches."

As her mother unpacked her suitcase, she unloaded approximately 10,800 boxes of Russian-made wooden matchsticks.

Which, and I think we can all agree, is excessive.

“What’s all this?” I asked.

“Step aside, American,” she said. “I’ve heard my daughter’s cries for help.”

My bride had convinced her mother that the poor Americans couldn’t produce a simple match made out of wood.

I reminded my mother-in-law that we had beaten the matchstick-building Russians to the moon.”

She wasn’t happy with that.

Well, we do make wooden matches, thank you.

We also make the paper kind in a little book.

But, I’ll never get to use a single paper match again because I now have 10,799 boxes of Russian fire-starters left to go through.