He's never beaming when he has to use a flashlight

February 19, 2007|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,Sun Columnist

Whenever I watch a Hollywood thriller where someone is chasing after someone else in the darkness, I always think: How come their flashlights work so much better than mine do?

Case in point: My wife and I just rented The Wicker Man, which stars Nicolas Cage as a cop investigating the disappearance of a young girl on a spooky island inhabited by a pagan cult.

(Note: Don't even think about watching this movie if you're at all depressed. Because the ending is a complete downer. Even before they roll the closing credits, you'll want to throw yourself in front of a bus.)

Naturally, the Nicolas Cage character seems to do all his investigating in the middle of the night, wandering around all by himself with this little flashlight.

And the flashlight takes all sorts of abuse.

At one point, he bangs it against the stone walls of a crypt.

Then he gets it soaking wet splashing around in an underground stream.

Then he drops it 15 feet onto a steel grate.

And the light never goes out.

In fact, the light doesn't even dim.

Nope, whenever he needs it, it shoots a powerful beam that cuts through the darkness like an air-raid spotlight.

Me, I have four flashlights stashed around the house that never get banged around, never get wet, never get dropped.

All they do is sit on nice, dry shelves all day.

And none of them ever work when I need them.

Or they just barely work, emitting this pathetic beam of light so weak you can see a little circle at the end of it.

Thank God the power didn't go out when the snow and ice hit us last week - we would have been lighting candles and probably burned the house down.

The thing is, it doesn't seem to matter whether I buy cheap flashlights or expensive flashlights, either.

A few years ago, I bought one of those big, black, heavy-duty flashlights that looks like something the warden carries around in all those prison movies.

Oh, this baby was a beauty.

It even had a tough, rugged name, something like Tactical Advantage.

Cost me, I don't know, 40 bucks.

"You're crazy spending $40 on a flashlight," my wife said.

"You won't be saying that when we need it," I said.

Two weeks later, a storm came through and the lights went out.

"Don't worry," I told her. "Tactical Advantage is standing by."

So I grabbed the flashlight from the hall closet where it was stored, a strong, silent sentinel against the darkness.

I clicked the "On" switch.

Nothing.

I clicked it again.

This time, a faint beam of light tried futilely to cut the gloom. It seemed to wither and die 2 feet from where we were standing.

Let me tell you something: There are Barbie doll flashlights that are more powerful than Tactical Advantage.

I could have cupped a match in my hand, and it would have been brighter.

So I quickly took Tactical Advantage back to the cavernous hardware superstore where I bought it and got my money back.

This time I paid $6.98 for something from the "Reliability: Zero" line of flashlights.

I say that because this one worked for about two days, and never worked after that.

I used to think my problem with flashlights was the batteries.

Was I buying cheap ones?

No, Duracell, Eveready, Rayovac, Rite Aid batteries - it didn't seem to matter.

Was I not replacing them often enough? I don't know, Nicolas Cage didn't seem to have that problem in The Wicker Man.

Look, I wouldn't have traded places with him in a million years. Here he was, traipsing all over this rugged island at night, banging his head on dusty crypt doors, having these terrible flashbacks, being chased by killer bees - don't ask, it takes too long to explain - and getting freaked out by all these weirdo pagans.

But at least he had a flashlight that worked.

I kept watching him and thinking: How does he do it? Is he changing the batteries every five minutes?

I don't remember a scene where he scooped up six or eight extra D batteries and stuck them in his pocket, but maybe he did.

I'd go back and watch the movie again, but it's really depressing.

The flashlight working - that's about the high point of the guy's day.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

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