How I became addicted to light bulbs

This originally appeared in the Dec. 8 2017 edition of the Victoria Times Colonist.


A confession: For a while, I was obsessed with light bulbs. Completely light-bulb crazy, buying them all the time. Just like a junkie — except instead of the word “drugs,” insert the words “light bulbs”.

I’m not sure how I got this light-bulb monkey on my back, but it soon became a full-blown addiction.

It started when we bought a new lighting fixture for the living room. My wife has always wanted a Fortuny light. They’re expensive as they’re hand-made in Venice. But my wife rarely asks for anything, so we purchased the Fortuny to fulfill her lifelong dream.

The light was installed and it looked great. The only problem was that the Fortuny requires 24-watt bulbs because the fixture is made of delicate silk hand-painted by Italian artisans. The low-wattage bulbs didn’t light the living room that much.

“It’s fine,” said my wife. “I like it.”

“Oh, it’s pretty good. It’s just not quite enough light,” I said.

“Don’t fiddle with it. Just leave it,” my wife said.

But I couldn’t leave it. So I contacted our electrician. It had taken Evan literally eight hours to install the Fortuny fixture. That’s because there was no pre-existing light fixture in the ceiling of our 100-year-old house. He had to use a special fish-wire tool to get the wires up the ancient walls. And he drilled lots of holes.

The task was so onerous, at one point he felt like giving up. But I said, “No Evan, keep going.” I was even prepared to make him a cheese sandwich to keep his spirits up. During the eight-hour wiring process we’d become pals, friends in adversity, like war buddies. Evan even showed me photos of his kids.

I now felt comfortable enough to phone Evan and confide in him about the low-wattage light-bulb problem. No problem, he said. Just get 40-watt LED bulbs. They generate less heat so the delicate fabric won’t be damaged.

But the 40-watt LED bulbs didn’t look right to me. They had long Edison-light-style filaments you could see right through the Fortuny’s fabric.

“Do these look right?” I asked my wife. “They don’t look right to me.”

“They’re fine. I like it,” she said.

“They just don’t look right,” I said.

So I went back to the hardware store and got some “soft-glow” LED lights with yellow glass. I was all excited about the soft-glow yellow bulbs. But when I switched them on, the yellow light looked weird.

“The effect is sad, even mournful,” I said to my wife.

“Well, they do look sort of strange,” my wife said.

“Our living room is now the sort of room you can only listen to sad Billie Holiday songs in,” I said.

So it was back to the hardware store. By now, I felt embarrassed about buying so many light bulbs. In another recent visit to the same store, I’d bought Edison light bulbs for my home office. I’ve got three Edison lamps in there, the old-fashioned kind with Victorian-style glass cases. They look like something you’d use for preserving a taxidermy specimens.

I’d also visited the hardware store on a separate trip to buy LED light bulbs for three antique light fixtures in our house. I figured the LEDs were safer than regular bulbs for these old fixtures.

On top of that, one of these visits had to be repeated, because I mistakenly purchased little bottom bulbs instead of big bottom bulbs.

When I returned to the store for yet another set of bulbs for the Fortuny, the hardware clerk seemed to recognize me.

“Hi there. Back again,” he said.

“Oh, yes. Need to some bulbs for our new light fixture,” I said.

“You seem go through a lot of bulbs,” the clerk said.

“Not really. Just trying to get the lighting situation in our house sorted out.”

“No, you really buy a lot of bulbs. You’re our best bulb customer .We’re going to have to restock,” he said.

“Ha ha. Well, I must go” I said.

I wasn’t crazy about my new reputation as Light Bulb Guy. So, to dilute my LED light purchase, I also bought electrian’s tape and a plastic tool box. The cashier wasn’t fooled, though.

“Hey, it’s you,” she said. “Back for more light bulbs, I see.”

“Yeah. Well, and this other stuff. Just normal hardware store purchases,” I said.

“You’re like Mr. Light Bulb,” she said.

“No I’m not,” I said. “Not really.”

Happily, the new LED lights look great in the Fortuny light fixture. That’s an extra bonus because I don’t think I can patronize my hardware store any longer in case they start kidding me about light bulbs again.

Not that I need any more. Hey, I can quit at any time.




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