The most important light in the house is, arguably, the light above the kitchen sink. I suppose I could entertain a motion that the light inside the refrigerator, or the light in the bathroom, are also contenders for the title of "Most Valuable Illuminator."
But since I recently had to replace the light above our kitchen sink, I already have a strong favorite for the honor.
When the kitchen light doesn't work, it drives you crazy. You continue to flip the switch that is supposed to transform darkness to light. It is habit. And each time the light doesn't go on, you get aggravated.
Once I discovered that the fluorescent light above our sink had expired, I immediately checked my store of replacement bulbs.
I was brought up to believe that you can measure the efficiency of a house by how quickly the keeper of bulbs, the master of household, the captain of this vessel, replaces a dead light bulb.
In the house where I grew up, bulbs were replaced in a matter of minutes. My father would spring out of his armchair, fetch a replacement and have the new bulb glowing the fixture while the deceased bulb was still warm. The departed bulb was then quickly laid to rest, out of sight, in a trash can.
When my light blacked out recently, it took me three days to get it working again
One day was devoted to getting a substitute bulb. I did have a few back-up bulbs in my cache, but they were the wrong size. What I needed was a 24-inch fluorescent bulb. What I had were a couple of 100-watt incandescent.
I went to the hardware store, got a new bulb, and snapped it in the fixture. When I flipped the switch, there was a dim flash of light, more like Quayle than Einstein, then darkness. My failure to fix the light quickly depressed me, so I waited until the next day to try again.
On Day 2 of Darkness, I pulled out a circuit tester, an electrical device that looks like upside-down rabbit ears. It works this way. You stick the "ears" into a fixture, and if the juice is flowing, a little light in the "rabbit head" goes on.
When I put the ears in my kitchen light, the rabbit glowed. This exercise told me that electricity was coming from the switch to the light fixture. So the problem was in the fixture.
Since this was a fluorescent fixture, I hunted around for a "starter," a little gadget that looks like a film canister. The starter fires up the fluorescent bulb, and gets it glowing. But this light didn't have a starter, it had a ballast.
A ballast is a black box that sits inside the fixture. It does what a starter does -- encourages the fluorescent tube to glow -- but costs more to replace. If you can find one. I couldn't.
So I ended up buying an entire replacement fixture. It took me most of the day to find one, and it cost me $24.
The next day was devoted to installing the new fixture. One difficult aspect of working on the kitchen sink light is that you are in a high-traffic area.
So I had to wait for a time when the traffic died down, between breakfast and lunch, before breaking out my screwdrivers. Another difficult aspect of working on the light above the sink is that when you put the new one in, you end up sitting in the sink as you minister to the light above you. This is not a very comfortable perch, even when you pad the sink with those little throw pillows stolen from the sofa. It is, however, the only practical use I have ever found for those itty-bitty pillows.
After the usual amount of sweating and swearing, I got the new fixture in and all the ugly wires covered up.
Then I flipped the switch and sent juice flowing to the household's Most Valuable Illuminator. And on the third day, there was light.