... I live in an nice apartment block mostly surrounded by old people quietly enjoying their last years. Depending on their age they will stroll in the adjoining park, or relax in the rooftop sunroom, or simply shuffle out only to retrieve their mail. The very old will not even go that far, and they leave their small garbage bags just outside their doors, trusting a passing neighbour will drop it in the garbage chute.
One day last summer, in front of one of these doors was parked a lamp. A wonderful 50's retro twin gooseneck standup lamp. I hesitated. Perhaps this lamp was a cast off, and perhaps it was simply set there on its way to storage. I could knock and ask, but this can intimidate the very old. I decided to wait.
About every thirty minutes I would crack open my door and peer at the lamp. After a few hours it was gone. I rushed downstairs and found it beside the building dumpster. Score! I hauled it back to my lair. A quick inspection revealed the wires were brittle with age and heat, and the conical shades discoloured. I disassembled it all, soaked and cleaned the cones, and threw out the old wiring.
While it was apart I realized that the way the cones attached to the goosenecks --at the sides-- was not as aesthetically pleasing as attaching them by the tails. Since the holes for the switches and necks were the same size, it would be simple to reverse things and install new side-switched sockets. This would also place the bulbs further into the width of the cones and hopefully reduce the overheating problem.
Excellent. I made a note to pick up sockets sometime, and put the lamp in the back of a closet.
It's winter now, the days are short and dark, and of course I never remembered to pick up new sockets. So I decided to just macguiver the lamp together using the old parts. I figured I'd use the old tail-switched sockets, creatively suspending them within the cones, and then simply plug the lamp into my computer's power bar for switching.
A little rummaging later and with the delicate use of a hacksaw blade on an old plastic towel rod, I had a system ready for assembly. Being a smart monkey I decided to test that the switches were in the On position before I buried them in the cones.
And the multimeter showed zero signal. On both. In all switch positions.
Not only had this lamp been badly rewired once, had fried its last wires, and had at least one socket replaced with a newer model, but both sockets were burnt out. And lamp sockets are pretty simple things that can take a lot of heat.
I can see it now: for the last fifteen years, the little old lady fussing and shaking the sparking lamp as it slowly died each time, and each time it would not shake back on she'd get some homer relative to "repair" it. This year, finally, perhaps in the spirit of the New Millennium, she decided to toss the thing out. (Or maybe she just outlived her repairman.)
Whichever. I have to say I am amazed more buildings don't burn to the ground.
Just thought I'd share that. I needed to take a break before cleaning up the operating table after this entirely unsatisfying surgery. I'll pick up new sockets ... oh, sometime.
This site is strictly personal. I give no guarantee to the accuracy of my facts or my fictions.
© 2001 Owen Briggs
last modified on 19feb01