Six months ago, a large local retailer had light bulbs on sale.
They were the spanky new LED bulbs, and they were basically giving them away. Deciding bulbs that used less energy were the way to go, I stocked up. I ran around my house replacing all the old, terrible, wasteful bulbs with ones so environmentally friendly they were almost vegan.
At a dinner party the other night, a guest sat blinking in my dining room. The fixture in there sports six of my new bulbs. You could do surgery at my dining table, if you were so inclined. We sat discussing changes the house has been undergoing since I pretended to move and then didn’t.
A new fridge is now neatly tucked into the place it was meant to be, instead of the behemoth standing in the middle of the room that is now a beer fridge in the basement. Slowly, pictures are going up and a style is emerging. I asked for input from those at the table; I can use all the ideas I can get.
“You know,” said the guest, “there are softer bulbs you can get for this fixture.”
He looked like he wanted his sunglasses.
“These are ones I had a coupon for,” I explained. “They use less energy. Can you believe they were only a dollar?”
A few days later, Christopher asked why the porch lights were so bright.
“They’re energy efficient!” I told him. “I have lots of extras if you want some.”
“We’re good,” he said quickly.
I have a cupboard full of these light bulbs. Every time I try to give them away, the kids accidentally forget to take them home. My parents used to do this: give us the things they didn’t want but couldn’t bear to throw away. Unlike my children, I learned early on to just take whatever was offered and ditch it later. Breaking my mother’s heart was not an option.
It took a while longer, but I finally realized that everybody in my life has been quietly changing out my new light bulbs. Or wishing they could. From the outside looking in, it apparently looks like I live in a jack-o-lantern.
Fed up with being surrounded by people who value their retinas over the environment, I thought I’d finally found a like-minded individual in a friend of mine.
“The kids are complaining that the porch lights look bad,” I lamented.
We were walking up the front steps, squinting.
“When they’re older, they’ll finally appreciate that you need proper front lights for the ambulance.”
I said this with a certain amount of authority. As I get older, I consider each situation I encounter with a worst-case scenario. The kids made me promise if I lived alone out in the country, I would get a dog so if I died, the dog would go for help.
I didn’t move to the country, but my compromise is lighting up my front porch like a carnival midway so emergency rescue crews can find my house if I’ve fallen and can’t get up.
An hour later, I opened the front door. Something was wrong. The bulbs were now little tear-shaped ones, not even close to my “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” LED hydro savers.
I yelled over my shoulder for the “friend” who had pretended to agree with me about the importance of front porch safety.
“Why did you change the bulbs?” I demanded. “How is the ambulance going to find me?”
He started laughing.
“Ambulance? I thought you said ambience.”