I changed a light bulb two weeks ago.
It took me almost four days.
I’ve lived in this house for eight years now, and for several years I had been eyeing the light fixture in the kitchen ceiling and wondering:
- When the bulb would give out
- How the glass thing that covers the bulb is attached
- What kind of bulb it was
- What I was going to do about it when the bulb burned out.
I wondered how I would get up there with my eighteen inch stepladder and my sixty-four inch height. I can touch the 96″ ceiling from it, but wouldn’t be able to bend my arms to, for example hold a flashlight or screw anything in or out of something close to the ceiling.
A couple of years ago, when I asked a few friends around my age how they were doing, each one said, “I fell.” Suzanne tripped over the threshold, or a dog, carrying wood inside, and also walking up my sidewalk. Sheila fell on an icy step right outside her front door. Marilyn slid on some leaves. Joan broke her wrist near her front sidewalk. Maureen broke her wrist trying to change a light bulb over her kitchen island…Fonda took a tumble from slippery moss at the side of my house…
About two weeks ago, the bulb finally gave out. Oh, god, cue the slasher music!
I thought through a number of solutions, each one an attempt to avoid figuring it out myself. They were, in order:
- Find a handyman with a ladder, but I’ve been down that road and it never worked out.
- Go to Lowe’s and buy a new fixture, and pay Lowe’s to install it. I’m sure that screwing in the light bulb would be included in the installation.
- Call an electrician to check out the light switch. (He’d tell me it was fine, just a burned out bulb, and I’d say “well…since you’re here, could you check the fixture and find out what kind of bulb it is?” He’d have to take off the glass cover to do that, and then I’d know how it comes off, and maybe it’s just a regular light bulb in there, and maybe then I could ask to borrow his ladder for a sec, and maybe he’d just offer to do it.) But that guy’s at least 10 years older than I am…
- Call Ray the plumber to replace the water heater. It’s in the crawl space downstairs and I only go down there about twice a year. When he arrived, I could say, “Oh, by the way, I need to change the light bulb in the kitchen. Do you have a ladder?” With any luck, he’d just do it himself.
In the end, I was ashamed to do any of these things, so I decided to figure it out and do it myself, but not try to do it all at once, like the time I changed an electrical outlet in my apartment in Manhattan (because I didn’t want to call Maintenance) and shorted out my whole wing of the building. (The guy from Maintenance said that, other than taking a hammer to the outlet at the end to get it flush with the wall, I’d done a good job.)
First up was to try to get another light in the kitchen. After trying three or four lamps from the living room, all of which were too high to put on the kitchen counter because they blocked the upper cabinet doors, the tape measure came out. I found one lamp upstairs what was low enough, brought it down and plugged it in.
That was day one.
On day two, I played around on the internet with my coffee, did some reading, but knew I should be thinking about that light fixture. I looked at it from the doorway. Around eleven AM, I moved the stepladder, unfolded it near the fixture, and got onto the top step to confirm that I could touch the fixture, but couldn’t maneuver around it. From the top step, I saw the last of the sage in the freezing rain on the deck, and I went outside to save it.
Around two PM, I looked at the fixture again. It hurt my neck. Put the stepladder under the fixture. Spent ten minutes looking for a flashlight to better see around the edges of the fixture. Mounted the stepladder and felt around the edges, but could see or feel nothing that would move. Couldn’t reach. Needed to get up higher.
When I started to put the stepladder on top of a dining chair, Sophie, who had been watching from across the room, gave a little “Aeow” and ran upstairs. I jiggled the ladder around on top of the chair, and it didn’t seem that unstable, but I wasn’t going to push my luck.
I checked my email; Amazon was shipping 5 cases of catfood that Sophie won’t eat but Ben would have. Got on Amazon and cancelled the order. Went back into the kitchen and looked at the stepladder perched on the chair. But I noticed that in the lower lamplight, there was dust on unused parts of the kitchen counter, so I cleaned the kitchen counter.
Then I got back on Amazon and ordered naproxen sodium, but that fixture was nagging at me. Looked at the chair on the stepladder again, and decided to try it. One step up onto the chair, then one on the stepladder, then another…didn’t fall, but had to get back down and reposition the whole thing so I’d have better leverage.
Got back up, grabbed the edges of the glass cover and pushed back and forth. It gave about 1/4 inch each way. Got back down and up, this time with the flashlight. Used the flashlight to look around the edges. Felt around the glass cover for anything that would move. There were two stainless steel outer-space looking prongs that seemed to be holding the glass on. Felt around some more (eight years of grime!) Found button-like spheres at the outer edges of the prongs that could be laboriously unscrewed, and partly unscrewed one of them.
Moved the chair/stepladder again, partly unscrewed the second one, while holding the weight of the glass because I thought it could come crashing down suddenly, and break – or crack my head open. It gave! And I’m standing on top of a stepladder perched on a dining chair in the middle of the kitchen, holding that glass cover that weights about eight pounds over my head…I’m not sure how I got down, but I did. I put down the glass without dropping it, and told myself to just walk away…
Read some news online. Checked email again, and another email from Amazon says they’ve shipped my Kindle Voyage a week earlier than originally expected. I’m on a roll! I decide to get back up on the chair on the ladder and see if I can remove the light bulb. After a lot of pushing, I got it off. It was some kind of a halogen bulb. I see it has “120V 150W etched on one ceramic end. I could take it to the hardware store and ask them to match it, but it seems to be “my day” on Amazon, so I go BACK on there and put in “120V 150W halogen” – and there they were. I had to measure the bulb length in centimeters, but in the end I found the right one.
That was day two.
On day three, I did nothing light bulb related.
On day four, the naproxen, the bulb, the Voyage, a case of “white meat chicken in a cream sauce with garden vegetables” for Sophie, and some printer paper arrived in three separate UPS deliveries. I installed the light bulb using the stepladder-on-chair technique. Couldn’t get the glass cover back on, but the light works.
I had to order a package of five bulbs, which should last a minimum of forty years. I’ll be one hundred and eight years old, minimum, when the last bulb burns out. At some point before that, someone else is going to have to climb up on the chair on the stepladder to replace a bulb, but I’ll think about that eight years from now, minimum.
Slap me for being dependent on the evil giant. It’s an impersonal dependence, and it suits me.