Dim Bulb

How many of me does it take to screw in a light bulb? I don't know the exact number, but one of me doesn't seem to be enough (though my wife might argue that sometimes one of me is one too much).

I know one isn't enough because I just tried to change four light bulbs in the ceiling and not only failed to replace any of them, I managed to break the fixtures they were in.

Now, lest you think I am a total idiot (an idiot perhaps, , but not total), I should say that I can replace most screw-in light bulbs. I happen to do this particularly well, because I rub a little 3-in-one oil on the base before I screw it in so that it's easy to unscrew later. So I consider myself incandescently above-average.

But my light bulb changing talents fail miserably when it comes to ceiling mounted fluorescent lights. After our electricity came back on (it had been off for over 24 hours, through no fault of my own—really, ask my wife: "Well, I can't pin this on him just yet,"), I was reminded to change the bulbs that had stopped working several months ago.

So last week I bought new ones and was now emotionally ready to try to install them. The first step was to get the ladder. I hate this ladder with the white hot heat of a thousand suns. And I don't think the ladder cares for me, either. I don't have proof of this, but I believe the ladder's brand name is "Eternal Torment 2000," because everything about it is painful.

It's one of those big, industrial strength jobs, that can be folded 87 ways to make scaffolding, etc. It has round treads that dig into my feet even when I wear shoes. When it locks into position it makes such an inhumanly loud noise it's probably illegal in Scandinavian countries. And it weighs a ton. All this adds up to a piece of equipment I try to avoid using whenever possible. Thus, lights can be out for months.

My wife insisted we get this ladder, rather than the quiet, lightweight one I wanted, because this one was sturdier. Now, given the fact that at times I can be confused for a grizzly bear, sturdy is good. But tOh, it's sturdy, all right. housands of years from now they will find this ladder when every other part of my house has turned to dust. There it'll be, sticking out of the ground like badly designed dinosaur bones, ever ready to torment new generations.

So I get the hateful ladder upstairs, which already has made my back hurt, and I set it up, which has temporarily deafened me. Then I climb up and try to remove the patterned plastic thing that covers the fluorescent bulbs. It's much bigger than the opening, yet doesn't want to bend so I can't remove it.

Maybe when it was installed, 11 years ago, it was more flexible, or the person who installed it was better at these things, but I bend and tug and curse and then it simply falls out. I remove the old bulbs (I am able to twist and pull them out), and go to install the new one, only to discover that I've bought the wrong size. This happened because I didn't want to drag the Eternal Torment ladder upstairs to measure, so I stood on a footstool and measured... wrong.

To my credit, if I had bought the bulbs locally they would have been returnable. But my wife decided we should buy them while on a trip (but of course!) so we'd have to drive hours to return them, which would cost more in gas than any refund.

Now I have four expensive bulbs that don't fit. I wiggle two old bulbs and they start working again and I try to put the plastic panel back on but it's like some kind of optical illusion, because the panel is too big to go back, and after much bending I only manage to snap it in half.

This accomplished, I take the bulbs to another room that needs them and wrestle that plastic panel off to discover that the bulbs won't fit here, either. I try to reinstall the plastic panel and, following the same brilliant pattern I'd perfected in the other room—I snap this piece in half, too.

So now, after much dragging of my Eternal Torment, I have installed no new bulbs, broken two plastic covers, and have four bulbs I can't use and will have to drive an hour away to return, because my wife insisted I buy them at this place on the way home from somewhere rather than at a place near us.

And you wonder why I like computers so much. They don't require ladders. They only require changing every three or four years, they rarely break in half and when they do it's not like anyone expects you to fix them.

If I think about it, I guess it only takes one of me to install a light bulb after all. I just need to use the web to find someone to do it for me.

Daniel Will-Harris

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I'm not very good at changing tires, either. I make up for it somewhat by being able to change PC Cards. Hey, I do what you can :)



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The SchoomozeLetter is ©1998-2005, Daniel Will-Harris, all rights reserved. If you'd like to use any article on the web or in print, please ask for permission. If you're an agent or publisher looking to publish these pieces, just drop me a note.