M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Monday, March 01, 2004  

This Light Isn't

Trash and I finally made it to Home De[s]pot this past weekend to get a replacement ceiling fan/light for the kitchen. Only three weeks after I said we would. For me, that's ahead of schedule.

We walked past the light bulbs almost immediately after entering the store. "Do we need some of those?" Trash asked me. I didn't think so. We still have a raft of light bulbs from when we bought some at Sam's Club last May.

So we picked out a ceiling fan. Trash shot down the ones I liked, in particular the three-bladed monster that looked like it had been stolen off a wind farm, and the ones with wicker blades shaped like palm fronds. So we went with a fixture that is largely similar to the old one, aside from the fact that you can actually change the light bulbs in it and the very sight of it does not fill me with hatred and rage.

Then I mentioned that we needed a new light fixture for the laundry room. We've got a 48" fluorescent tube-hanger in there now, and I can't find tubes for it because it's an old fixture from when 48" tubes were actually forty-eight inches long rather than the forty-seven-and-a-quarter they are today. Is pressurized argon gas really so expensive that they save that much money shortening them? Whatever the case, I needed a modern fixture that will hold modern tubes rather than dropping them on the laundry-room floor all the time, because that white stuff they coat the insides of the tubes with doesn't always come out of black garments. And when you're doing laundry by candlelight, you don't notice until you go to put something on a few days later.

I also needed a new fixture for the utility room, right above where the catbox is. The one there now isn't technically a fixture; it's just a socket for a bare bulb. And it doesn't work, even with a brand-new light bulb. How a porcelain and metal collar with no moving parts can quit working is beyond me, but the situation must be remedied if I am to get full visual enjoyment out of the cat turds and gigantic clumps of grit-infused urine as I scoop them out. I just hope I can figure out which circuit breaker to shut off when I fix it, since the normal "is the light off?" test won't apply. How sad would it be if I electrocuted myself and my wife came downstairs to find that the cats had half-buried me?

And then we needed a new ceiling fixture to replace the one at the top of the bedroom stairs. There's really nothing wrong with the current one, aside from its being a) ugly, b) about to fall down, and c) only half-functional. On the other hand, it's getting more and more difficult to find ceiling-mounted lights that don't look like breasts. But we managed to find some fixtures that didn't feature a prominent metallic nipple, and we brought home one of those.

On the way out, Trash noticed a table-lamp combo that we could put in the basement to replace the one that's been slowly collapsing for several years, so that went in the cart as well. On the way, out, Trash said, "Are you sure we don't need light bulbs?" I looked at the five different varieties of lighting components in our cart and said, "Not any more."

After Trash assembled the new table lamp, the fan/light combo in our kitchen came down first because I hate it the most. Also, it is inexplicably back down to one working bulb, and I vowed three weeks ago that I'd never change another bulb in that thing again, and if I needed light, I could set fire to the blades. It didn't come to that, although I almost had to set fire to the ceiling to pull the old one down.

I've mentioned Dr. Jellyfinger before, and how his long, incompetent shadow looms over me whenever I try to improve something in this house. Dr. Jellyfinger is the master of DIYETYRS (do-it-yourself-even-though-you-really-shouldn't) home improvement. A normal ceiling fan is attached not to the ceiling itself, but to a metal bracket attached to an electrical box inside the ceiling. Somebody should have told Dr. Jellyfinger this. Sadly, nobody did, which years later put me in the position of standing on a step stool in my kitchen on a Sunday afternoon, chipping away with a hammer and screwdriver at the petrified collar of plaster, caulk, and paint that gave the fan mount the appearance of having grown organically out of the ceiling.

Trash heard all of my cursing from the other room, and nervously kept offering to help. I gave her a job when I finally got the old fan excavated from the ceiling. "Take this outside," I asked, handing her the thirty-pound motor, "and shoot it."

That was the easy part. It turns out he'd installed the electrical box too high in the ceiling, which meant I'd have to chip away even more of the plaster to get the new fixture to fit on the bracket. With help from Trash, I fanhandled it into place, balancing it on one shoulder while doing the wiring with the other hand. That's not the best position in which to do wiring, because even the smallest electrical jolt from a pair of live wires is going to have that thing leaving great dents in the linoleum.

Once the fan was up and in place and illuminated and whirling and not banging and swinging like Buddy Rich, I looked at the place where it meets the ceiling, and I had one of those chilling moments of dark clarity. One of those realizations I fear most. More times than I can count in the decade we've lived in this house, I've cursed Dr. Jellyfinger's made-up-by-me name for doing something that had cost me more effort to correct than it could possibly had saved him. In this case, I had undone his shoddy work, and I realized: I was going to have to do the exact same thing myself.

I have no choice but to do it better than he did. This fan is never coming down, do you hear me?

Today's best search phrase: "Wholesale overrun bankrupt magazine." That's a good one. Don't get me wrong, though; I only read it for the articles.

posted by M. Giant 3:28 PM 0 comments


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