Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Light is On

Q: How many blondes does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: Five. One to hold the bulb and four to turn the ladder.

(Hey, while I’m an honorary blonde I can tell jokes like this.)

Q: How many Vulcans does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: Approximately 1.000000000000000000.

Q: How many people would offer unsolicited advice to a person planning on changing out his light fixtures?
A: Everybody on the planet minus one.

My week went sort of like this.

Yo, dude, whatcha plannin’ to do this weekend?

Hey, I’m changing out some light fixtures.

Yo, dude, don’t forget to turn the power off at the breaker.

Yeah, thanks for the advice.

Yo, dude, whatcha plannin’ to do this weekend?

Hey, I’m changing out some light fixtures.

Yo, dude, don’t stand on the top of the ladder. Get a bigger ladder.

Yeah, thanks for the advice.

Yo, dude, whatcha plannin’ to do this weekend?

Hey, I’m changing out some light fixtures.

Yo, dude, buy some extra parts because, you know, the box will be short something.

Yeah, thanks for the advice.

Yo, dude, whatcha plannin’ to do this weekend?

Hey, I’m changing out some light fixtures.

Yo, dude, remember the belt buckle rule. Don’t lean out farther than your belt buckle.

Yeah, thanks for the advice.

And that’s the way it went all freaking week! Finally, I just decided to make stuff up.

Yo, dude, whatcha plannin’ to do this weekend?

Hey, I’m robbing a bank.

Yo, dude, wear one of those big hats so the cameras can’t see your face.

I mean there was no relief!

Yo, dudes, it’s light fixtures not the Space Shuttle. I’m going to take down the old light fixtures that used those itty bitty 15-Watt bulbs and replace them with fixtures that use Manly 200-Watt Bulbs. Yes, we are going to Light This Place Up!

Turns out that no amount of advice can prepare you for taking out a ceiling light fixture and replacing it with another. I changed out six fixtures and they were all different.


I only didn’t get the power turned off to one fixture and soon discovered the hard way that it was “hot.”

The “hard way” is standing on the top of a ladder, trying not to dive off head first as amperes, volts and coulombs are coursing down your body at the speed of light giving you that tingling feeling and making sparks shoot out of your eyeballs.

“Uh, no problem, Honey, just as soon as I get the feeling back in my right leg. It’s sort of twitching, now.”

I hobbled into the garage, tempted to throw the main breaker, but, rather, spent a few minutes looking for the “upstairs hall lights” which was breaker 19 and I had turned off breaker 17.

Missed it by THAT much.

The most difficult fixture was in the stairway leading to the home office room. Positioned above the stair landing it required me to violate all the “advice” I had received.

“Don’t stand on the top step of the ladder.” Violate.

“Don’t lean out farther than your belt buckle.” Violate.

“Don’t stand on one foot.” Violate.

“Carry extra hardware because you’ll drop something.” Violate.

“Don’t do this alone.” Violate.

“Make sure you have the right tools.” Violate.

“Swearing doesn’t help.” Violate. Violate. Violate. Violate. Violate.

In truth, five of the six lighting fixtures went in with little problem. Yeah, there were some improvisations but that’s to be expected.

However, the stairway fixture was a challenge. For a start it violated all the safety rules. I could barely reach the old fitting by standing on the top of the ladder on one foot, on tiptoe, stretching.

Nobody gave me the advice of standing on one foot and holding my arms over my head for 20 minutes. Lack of strength training was nearly my undoing.

The first screw I dropped fell in slow motion, bouncing off step after step as it made it’s way from my hand to the floor about 20 feet below.

Twenty feet. What’s that?

An advisor of mine said that a fall of 30 feet will kill you. Twenty feet will just maim you.


I visualized myself falling as did the screw and it was not comforting at all. However, I had a job to do and as I teetered on the top of the ladder I made sure all my motions were careful and direct. No funny business way up here because one slip could be, well, not worth the effort.

With a final twist the last screw was in and I made the careful descent down.


In the end it was all my advisors who made this difficult job a safe job. I tied the ladder to the bannister so it wouldn’t fall down the stairs. I held on to a rail with one hand while I worked the fixture with the other. I carried several screws, connectors, pieces and parts in case I dropped them. And, I took my time.

I’m looking forward to meeting someone who is changing out his light fixtures so I can give him all my advice.

Yeah, I’d like to do that.


Anonymous said...

Better yet, come over to my house and move my dining room fixture to over my kitchen table.

And I'll keep my mouth shut.

Bill said...

Piece of cake!

I've got bolt cutters!

Anonymous said...

I've got 2 wall lights, 6 ceiling fans, a breakfast table light and the hideous monstrosity over the dining table awaiting my attention.

My ladder is nowhere near long enough for at least half of these.

Oh, and I still haven't figured out how to turn on the light in the screened porch bit.

I have the advantage of a postgraduate degree in electrical engineering, and the disadvantage that, for me, American electricity drives on the wrong side of the cable and the electrons are significantly fatter than their British counterpart (though the cable is much wider to accommodate this). It also doesn't bother to indicate where it's going and dresses in the wrong colours.

Jodie said...

Hey Bill... at least you're handy around the house! Happy Anniversary!!! My dear husband (DH for short) told me before marriage that he was raised by a Jewish American Queen (JAQ) and a father that didn't fix stuff. So they had takeout and lived in apartments. My dad was mr. fix-it, he did A/C & Heating repair for a living. Two ends of the spectrum. So I've had to remember what mom (mrs. fix-it) and dad taught me long ago when a project comes up, or wait for my step-son to visit us from Houston (Kingwood) here in Plano. So if I ever have a 3rd husband, I guess I'll make tool user one of the criteria. But I'm hoping to hang onto DH for a long long time. We'll hit 7 years in September.... we got married 4 days after 9/11.