D.K. Wall

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Seeing The Light

I flipped the light switch in my kitchen and noticed that several of my under-cabinet lights had burned out. What could be easier than replacing a few light bulbs?

To access the old bulbs, I had to remove a glass cover. The process is simple – grab the plate of glass and slide it forward until it disconnects.

Well, the process is simple once you remember that is how it works. But I am lucky if I remember I am standing in the kitchen because I need to replace light bulbs. I am sure I have stood in this exact spot several times in the last week trying to remember why I am standing here.

With memory failing, I need to see the glass covers, so I turn on the lights. Things are illuminated, but not where I can see. Standing 6’3”, I can’t see under a cabinet 4’6” high. If I squat down, I can sort of see, but I wear progressives.

For you youngsters, let me explain that progressive is a marketing term to make you feel hip and cool when referring to your trifocals. Yes, some day you too will have to wear eyeglasses that only help you see if you tilt your head just right. And, trust me, there is no right way to look underneath a counter and focus on your object while wearing progressives.

After realizing that the glass cover simply slid forward, I grabbed the glass and pulled. Of course, now that the lights are on, the glass is scalding hot. The smell of burning flesh filled the air as I yanked the molten glass from its brackets. I gently place the hot glass on the counter and treat my third-degree burns.

But the bulbs are exposed. Now I just need to remove them. They don’t screw out. Of course not. Why should science make all light bulbs work the same way?

These are built like Christmas tree lights, only more annoying. Removing the light bulbs requires grabbing these little tiny bulbs and pulling them with sufficient force to remove them. Can’t speak for the rest of you, but grip is one thing I used to have in the past. Besides, those little pins work like Super Glue.

The key is pulling with sufficient strength to remove the bulb while avoiding pulling the bulbs so hard that when they release you fall over backward, slap your hand into the counter, or fling the light a half mile away. Or all three at the same time. I pulled the trifecta.

After removing the bulb – or finding it on the other side of the room, you need a replacement. Bulb in hand, I am ready to traipse to Lowe’s for replacement lights.

Entering the light bulb aisle with the old bulb in my bandaged hands, I am thinking the search will be quick. Except the aisle is a football field in length with thousands of possible choices. None of the choices, for the record, are the bulbs of my youth – simple screw in bulbs that fit nearly any socket, only of different wattage which we roughly translated into brightness without having to understand lumens.

About half way down the aisle, I struck gold. My bulb. With only 27 different options. How can there be that many options on something so small?

I needed to determine the wattage of the bulb in my hands. It was printed in little, teeny-tiny letters on the glass of the bulb. Or, it had been. It was now quite faded. I drift over to the flood lights, hold the tiny bulb underneath the blazing light, and try to decipher the lettering through my trifocals.

Fortunately, there is a sales clerk in the aisle. She drifts down and asks if she can help.

No, really. I am not making that up. She asked if I needed help. And was knowledgeable. Of course, it struck me how much profit there must be in light bulbs if Lowe’s placed a full-time, knowledgeable clerk in the aisle.

She took the bulb, pulled out a magnifying glass, and identified what I needed. She pointed me to the replacement – a Halogen 20-watt bulb.

But wait, she says, why not get an LED? For a mere 2.5 watts, it produces 170 lumens. Basically, for less power you get more light – and the bulb lasts longer. Amazingly, the bulb sells for the same price as the halogen bulb.

Fine, sold.

We buy three bulbs – for a total cost roughly equal to the original light fixture – and head home.

Arriving home, I attempt to remove the light bulb from its plastic packaging. My eco-friendly, LED lightbulb is encased in tough plastic. Isn’t it ironic that the old non-environmentally friendly lightbulbs were encased in an easy to recycle cardboard sleeve that was also easy to open? With enough sharp objects, I finally succeed in freeing the poor light bulb from its prison.

Now all I have to do is insert the two tiny pins of the bulb into the two tiny holes of the socket.

First, of course, I have to see the two tiny holes in the socket. The ones underneath the counter. So I bend my body in unnatural ways, ignoring the screams from my back which has already suffered one surgery, and attempt to look underneath the counters.

Funny thing about those progressive glasses. The focal point for short distances is the bottom of the glass. So, bent down and looking up, you are peering through the glass designed for distant viewing. The two tiny holes simply do not exist in my vision. I attempt to turn my head in ways that an owl would find difficult, but without success.

I turn my eyeglasses upside down so that I am peering up through the bottom of the glasses. The tiny holes are now visible, except when my glasses slide down my nose.

Bent over, pain shooting through my back, sweat rolling down my face, glasses upside down and sliding down my nose, I successfully insert the first tiny bulb into the sockets.

With the process figured out, I make quick work of the remaining new bulbs. Now all I have to do is slide the glass covers back into place. Through tiny slots on either side of the light fixture. Underneath the counter. Where I can’t see.

Eyeglasses inverted. Body contorted. Slots identified. Glass slid back into place.

With the bulbs replaced, I step back to admire my work. The three new bulbs are shining brightly. The old bulbs are not as bright, being the older halogens, but they are holding their own.

I changed three lightbulbs. All by myself. I smile at my success.

One of the old bulbs flickers, and dies.

I will replace it tomorrow.

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