Last weekend I puffed up with pride after successfully completing a daunting domestic task - changing a light bulb.
Before I endure a blizzard of jokes about how many journalists it takes to change a light bulb - two, one to screw it in and another to screw it up; or just one, he grabs the bulb and waits for the world to revolve around him - let me point out that this was not a mere 60-watt bulb removed from a living room lamp.
Instead, it was a floodlight, tucked in a recessed fixture, embedded in a soaring ceiling.
Not only have our lives gotten more complicated in recent years, so, I discovered, have our light bulbs. Putting recessed lights in an imposing ceiling seemed like a good idea when my wife and I fixed up our kitchen about a year ago. For months, these two lights illuminated a stairway leading down to the kitchen.
Then last Saturday night I snapped on the light switch and heard one of the floodlights pop. I looked up, way up. The home of this bulb was the household equivalent of an eagle's nest. Not only was it perched in the ether, this aerie was difficult to reach, unless you could fly.
My electrician had warned about this inevitability. "It is gonna be a circus act when you have to change these bulbs," he said after installing the fixtures.
On his advice I had purchased a light-bulb-changing kit. Before the soaring ceiling fixtures entered my life, I had no idea such kits existed, but I found one at a big-box hardware store. Mine had an expandable aluminum pole, three attachments to remove intact bulbs and a couple to remove bulbs that had broken off in the socket. It cost about $30. There are, I have since learned, a plethora of more expensive bulb-changing kits sold in stores and online. They change bulbs of all shapes and sizes. Some are battery-powered. Mine was the cheap model. It relied on manual dexterity, a suction cup and a string.
The suction cup was the attachment recommended for fetching bulbs from recessed lighting. The cup was about the size of a silver dollar. The string was fastened to a spot on its edge. I had my doubts it would work. I wanted to use one of the more substantial-looking, spring-loaded attachments that grabbed a bulb like your hand would. But the spring-loaded unit couldn't fit in the recessed fixture, so I had to trust the tiny little suction cup. Basically, it "kissed" the middle of a bulb, then held on.
I took a few practice smooches in an upstairs bathroom. There the ceiling was so low that I could change its recessed floodlights by hand, standing on a stepladder. But during the practice session, I used the pole and suction cup to loosen then tighten the lights.
Some people, I reminded myself, spend their weekends perfecting their golf swings or making music. I was spending mine unscrewing light bulbs.
Once I got my technique down and my courage up, I put on my safety glasses and a baseball cap and gave myself a pep talk. "You can do it," I told myself. "You can change this light bulb."
I turned off the power feeding the fixture. I extended the pole toward the bulb. It fell several feet short. I fetched a stepladder and positioned it on the staircase landing and climbed up the ladder.
Ever so slowly I moved the pole and the plastic cup toward the bulb, then, like a space capsule locking onto the mother ship, we had suction.
Gingerly, I loosened the bulb by turning the pole to the left. After a few turns, the bulb came out of the socket and remained stuck to the end of the pole, like a speared fish. I eased it down from the ceiling, keeping the pole erect. Once the bulb got to me, I pulled it loose. I got a replacement, a sealed halogen flood about 4 inches deep. Weeks ago I had bought a box of these $7 bulbs at an electrical-supply shop. They were pricey, but I figured if they lasted several months, they were worth it. I didn't want to go through this bulb-changing routine too often.
To ensure that the suction cup was "lip locked" on the new bulb, I applied a little saliva to the cup. The cup and bulb, in firm caress, ascended to the ceiling.
They remained together as I rotated the pole, tightening the bulb.
Then I grabbed the long piece of string attached to the suction cup. For most of the proceedings the string had been a nuisance, getting in my way. But now came its moment. With a tug of the string, suction was broken, the cup "kissed off" the new bulb.
I lowered the pole, took a deep breath and turned on the power.
The bulb beamed down from its height, and I glowed with the sense of accomplishment that comes from changing a towering light bulb.