Lights Out

I’m renting an amazing apartment in the Boston neighborhood of my dreams and feel like I won the lottery. It’s in an old building and as my friend who I’m renting from likes to say, there are no straight lines in this place. That’s what living in Boston means, with its 100+ year-old housing stock. All those kids living in the high-rise luxury apartments springing up in Boston like a toxic algae bloom have no idea what they are missing. I guess as the youngest child of four, I’m used to adapting to people and things that are bigger than me.

Unsecured doors swing open on their own, the bathroom door is loose and the closet door across from it door sticks. That doesn’t bother me a bit.

Then I encountered the light fixtures, which I believe predate my friend’s ownership (at least I hope so, or I may find myself knocking the toxic algae bloom door. Love you, landlord!)

It started with lights going out in the kitchen — fancy track lighting spotlights. Fancy to me because my idea of lighting is 40, 60, or 100 watts, and if you’re really getting crazy, use a 3-way bulb. I have tall ceilings, which I love, so, OK, I took out the tall step ladder Lora left for me, thank goodness. There are 3 little lights, and they don’t screw in, and they are flush to the fixture, so there is nothing to hold on to to get them out. Lora said there was a little rubber suction cup to pull them out. Um, OK. I couldn’t find that, but I like to think I’m pretty resourceful, so I thought I’d use a sticky ball of duct tape, which works only on the bulbs coming out. Putting them in, not so much because they get hot instantaneously, and then it just makes a melted mess and the bulb gets junked up. It took some coordination, what with being at the top of a ladder and reaching up awkwardly, but when I finally got it loose, I see the bulb has these two prongs you have to push in and twist to lock in, high up on a ladder in the middle of the kitchen. I’m not really looking forward to that part, but first things first.

You have to get your mitts on replacements.

It took a couple of stores to find the right bulbs. And then it took a couple of tries to get that first one in. I’m trying to match up the prongs into the holes and then twist it to lock it in, which sounds simple, except I’m on top of a ladder and can’t see anything. Just blindly stabbing the thing in there, hoping for the best. It finally feels like it snaps in. Great!

So when the second one went out a few weeks later, I thought I was ready. I had the bulbs, had some duct tape, had some experience. Not so fast, girlie. The second one wouldn’t go in. Or rather, felt like it was going in, only for me to climb down the ladder, turn it on and see it not light, or flutter on and off from being loose. I went from calm to a hot, sweating, swearing mess in about 10 seconds, which as you know, makes these tasks much easier. Sweating and swearing while teetering on top of  a ladder is not a good look for me, so I let that bulb stay out for a few days. Off course it’s the one pointed at where I cook,so my annoyance won out. It took another couple of tries, and it’s still isn’t clicked in quite right, but whatever. I moved on.

A few months later the living room overhead light bulb went out. It looks like an ordinary overhead light. I climb up the ladder, unscrew the glass bowl and discover more of these pronged light bulbs. Seriously? What is this, like the Betamax version of light bulbs? What the hell is wrong with plain screw in light bulbs? I gave a pass on the track lighting, because it’s seems like a fancy kind of lighting, which naturally requires extra things like suction cups and prongs. Fine. But an overhead light? With regular sized bulbs? Prongs? Really? Who even sells these things? Even more puzzling, it was one of those swirly tube bulbs — you know the ones that cost 10 bucks a piece and came out at a time when we’d only ever paid like $1 or $2 and the electric companies were giving us all discounts to buy them. Save energy, shine your environmental hero halo! Only to discover now that they are filled with mercury! Oops! Hey, don’t throw those away! True they did last longer, but you still have to get rid of them somehow. So not only did I need a light bulb with prongs, I had to hope they still make the non-swirly kind.

Light bulb people! Why do you feel the need to make a different kind of bottom for a light bulb? Just make the top more efficient and without mercury? Just focus on that, OK?

OK. Again, I had to make a couple of trips to different stores to find  a replacement. The young man who helped me, who most likely was born around the time these stupid swirly light bulbs were invented, gets a gold star for customer service,  because I went all “crabby old lady” on him. What with the prongs and the mercury swirl. He was appropriately sympathetic, in part because he only had one kind of replacement. I had no idea if it was the right wattage, I didn’t have a choice. That’s the other thing with these fancy/weird bulbs; they have no wattage or markings of any kind on the bulb or metal. So you can’t order them online, because you only have a picture to compare to, and guess what: size does matter. And, what, one wattage fits all? Or you know it’s not going to last on the market so why bother?

OK, I bought two bulbs for $20 bucks and change from the nice young man who did not judge me to my face. The package says they will last 10 years. Yeah, right, just in time for them not to be made anymore. I went back up the ladder and anticipated a prong wrestling match like the track lights in the kitchen. But lo, it’s amazing what leverage and easy access can do. It was in!

Phew, OK.

Not even a month later the dining room ceiling light bulb goes out. Ha! You can’t fool me twice. I’m ready with my pronged, efficient, non-mercury filled light bulb. Come at me bro! I get to the top of the ladder, unscrew the bowl, and there it is, laughing at me.

A conventional screw in bulb.

Screw the bowl back in, down the ladder, put the prong bulb away and fish out a conventional bulb. Back up the ladder. OK, done. Whatever.

Not even a few weeks later, a bedroom ceiling light bulb blew out. I’m really starting to hate all these ceiling lights and make a promise to myself to only use the floor lamps.

I climb up the ladder, but I’m not really paying attention. I mean, I have prong bulbs and I have conventional bulbs. What else could possibly be in a traditional-looking ceiling light fixture? I unscrew the bowl, which by the way is becoming a major pain in the butt. All these lights have pull chains and you can’t get the bowl off the chain, so you have to hold the bowl, while your taking out or putting in the bulb.

But I digress.

And what do you think I found behind light bulb door number 3? Three small lights, apparently called “torpedo candelabra” bulbs, and two of them were out. I thought of a few things I wanted to torpedo. Sigh. At least they have conventional screw bottoms.

Another trip to the hardware store, with bulbs in hand, and I was only  a little grumpy with the young worker. At least these bulbs seem more available. And the prongs taught me to be happy with the screw in version.

So the only light left to change is the bathroom light/fan set up. I’m going to stop using that thing tout suite. 

Photo Credit: Beautiful Halo: Ha, good luck replacing lights in that sucker.

2 Comments

  1. Toxic algae bloom is about the best description I’ve seen. Let me recommend to you the early 18th-century periodical essays of Addison and Steele, which were, for the Blogland, the first fish with legs to crawl out. Their first fictional persona, The Tatler, wrote “lucubrations,” one of my favorite words. It means “meditations by candlelight.” Just saying.

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