Friday, January 28, 2005

What Happened Later

What happened later was that the light burned out. Not exactly out out but that sort of half-death that fluorescent lights do for 20 or 30 years. A half-assed flicker that drives you insane and blind at the same time. (which reminds me of a drink I had once in Flagstaff, Arizona, but that was a long time ago and all the damage was paid for and most of the people who were locked up have been released by now, or at least I think so.)

Ordinarily I'd let a burned out light bulb ripen for a while. I'm a great believer in ripening. I've determined that many tasks get done green. It's bad for the task and it's bad for you. Work must be savoured and you can't savour work if it's green. Most people say that I put things off until the last minute. They miss the point entirely. I'm merely allowing the work to ripen so I can savour it properly. A burned out light bulb, for example, might take a year to ripen.

A half-dead, somewhat scorched fluorescent light fixture in my kitchen that requires beaucoup de photons, however, ripens very quickly. So, on the way home from work the other day I made an unprecidented visit to Lowes to buy a couple of replacement fluorescent tubes. I don't think I've ever been in Lowes on a weekday. It was weird to say the least. Dead. Hardly anybody there. Maybe five people.

They were all buying fluorescent tubes. I walked down the aisles. Nobody in Paint. Nobody in Kitchen. Nobody in Lumber. Nobody in Tools. Five people in Lights. Very strange. I picked up my tubes and headed for the checkout line.

If you've ever been to Lowes on a weekend you know the place is packed with masses of people. And they're buying big things. Fence posts. Bathtubs. Farm buildings. Riding mowers. Or lots of little things. 200 paint brushes. 15,000 half-inch hex nuts.

Checking out of Lowes on a weekend is the pits because they only have 4 out of 16 checkout lines open. I don't know why they bother to set up 16 lines when they never use more than four. Who are they trying to fool? On a weekend I always go to Lowes packing a lunch and a canteen of water. I'm going to need it just for checking out.

Weekday, I figured I was in Fat City. Four lines open, no waiting, check out at Warp Factor 5. I was on my way.

On my way to One Line open. One Line. One light lit. Number 6, open for check out. Nine people in line. It went something like this. The first person in line had a basket of about 10 items. The checker examined each item as if it were a museum piece and very gently slid it over the barcode reader.


Then the next item. The checker was very careful with the box of nails apparently manufactured by Hummel. Finally, she got to the last item, the customer handed over his credit card and the checker said, "Sorry, the credit card reader thing isn't working. You'll have to go to Customer Service so they can do it by hand." Not realizing what was going to happen next I allowed myself a Beavis and Butthead chuckle and mumbled, "heh heh heh heh! She said 'do it by hand' heh heh heh heh"

My mirth was short lived as she patiently examined the cart of Customer Number Two and once all the items in his cart had been thoroughly examined and skillfully, albeit s.l.o.w.l.y. passed over the barcode reader, announced "Sorry, the credit card reader thing isn't working. You'll have to go to Customer Service so they can do it by hand."

At this point I realized I wasn't in Beavis and Butthead but the Twilight Zone! Seven people were in front of me with enough hardware to rebuild Hoover Dam and had two tubes and a dark kitchen to fix. They all had credit cards at the ready. And they were all totally clueless. Could they not see that the Credit Card Thing wasn't working? Oh, the humanity!

A full thirty minutes later, I kid you not, I became Customer Number One and the checker dutifully, and very, very carefully, because I was carrying radioactive glass covered in tarantulas, registered my purchase and as her mouth began to form the word "Sorry", in fact, I heard her say "Ssss", I broke in loudly and exclaimed "I HAVE CASH!"

Momentarily, it crossed my mind that she may have never seen cash and wouldn't know what to do with it, but surprise, surprise, she pushed a button, change clattered into the little change bucket (I love those machines) and thirty minutes and 10 seconds after I got in line, I was free. Kicked loose. Matriculated. Out. Of. There.

I scuttled to my car clutching my purchase close to my body lest a fluorescent tube mugger make off with my well-earned goods, muttering to myself like Gollum, "My Precious bulbs! My Prescioussss!" Young mothers hustled their children away from my path. "Going to Lowes?", I sneered, "I hope you have lots of CASH! Hahahahaha!"

Finally, I got home, climbed up on the gas range island, in the gloom, and removed the scorched, plastic light diffuser from the light enclosure. If you're wondering what the "scorch" is about, read Lightly Toasted below. Replacing the tubes proved anticlimatic compared to the Fooming and the Twilight Zone experience. As I wrestled the plastic diffuser back into place I noticed that my fingers left a streak in the soot.

Streak in the soot? Hmmmmm, could it be?

I dampened a sponge and to my great amazement cleaned all the soot from my beloved diffuser and soon it was good as new. Once back in place the light looked totally unfoomed. I scampered across to the light switch and in my best Ace Ventura voice rasped, "Let there be LIGHT!"

And there was. And it was good. Bathed in photons I poured myself a Gin & Tonic and rested.

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