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Nothing is Illuminated

festerphoto.jpgOh, Fester, if only it were that easy.

It was supposed to be easy. I am about to create a new workspace in my study/studio, and I want to put a track light over it, and augment that with task lighting from a clamp-on desk lamp.  The Electrical Monkeys who originally re-wired the CrazyStable left a curious electrical fixture box high up on the wall, and I figured the track-light bar could go there. Spouse is adept at basic wiring-in of lighting fixtures. Piece of cake.

Then I noticed something weird about the "box," which has been sitting unused all these years: It has three taped-up wires sticking out of it, not the more customary two. This prompted the dim recollection that some other (non-simian) electrician once said it was "at the end of the line" or something, implying that fixture installation might involve...complications.  I have a mortal dread of electricity (no rational reason, no bad shock or cardioversion paddles in my past, it just appalls me), and I am particularly afraid of complications. 

And then I noticed another legacy of the Electrical Monkeys: There is no switch. I have just plastered this wall. Putting in a switch will mean putting a hole in the wall and fishing around for cable. It will also mean paying an electrician, simian or otherwise, to come to the house to put in a $24 fixture. But I get ahead of myself.  Full of resolve, I head to Lowe's, on this appropriately dreary afternoon, the Child in tow.

Lowe's has lots and lots of lighting fixtures, ranging in quality from obviously crappy to seemingly okay.  I have never shopped for a track light, and there I stand. The track lights on the boxes (none of which are filed over their correct prices) are all shown stuck to ceilings. But the display of fixtures is encouraging, because they are stuck to a wall, and the little light thingies seem to swivel satisfactorily.  I grab a "two-foot kit" ("easy to install, all parts included") and then realize--what about the wall switch I don't have?

A helpful Lowe's guy shows me that there are wall-plug conversion thingies--you slide them into the track and somehow now you can just (I guess) screw the bar to the ceiling (or wall) and plug it in like a lamp. Fine, I'll take one--no new hole in wall. (No convenient switch, either, but I've been fumbling into this little room in the dark for 20 years without serious injury; for the cost of an electrician's visit, I can keep doing it.)  Now I have to buy bulbs for the damn thing.  Back to the bulb aisle to look for "PAR20/R20," the specs on the box.  Well, there's R20 in floodlight and spotlight. R20 in halogen or not-halogen. (I have since learned that "normal, not-halogen" is termed "incandescent.")  There's PAR something or other. My eyes are blurring. The child is twitching with deeply justified mega-boredom, having exhausted the meagre entertainment value of the Lowe's Christmas tree display.  All I can remember is that halogen bulbs burn hotter than hell and caused the fire that burned up Lionel Hampton's apartment...and that we have bought only one halogen fixture, which was a total bitch to put in.  Does the lamp have to have halogen? Should it not have halogen? The box, from the "Portfolio"  lighting company, doesn't say. Waxing wroth, I pin a poor unsuspecting guy in a red weskit, who admits to being a "trainee."  He survives my interrogation quite well, actually, and I go away with a couple of cheap incandescent floodlights.  (He has never heard of Lionel Hampton, he says. What are  our urban youth coming to?)

I will let you know how it goes. Lowe's, by the way, has got a kindly online primer on lightbulbs for people like me and Fester, which makes us feel better about such things. We also got caulk...and thereby hangs another tale of woe...

Posted on Monday, November 13, 2006 at 05:40PM by Registered CommenterBrenda from Brooklyn | CommentsPost a Comment

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