Something odd happened the other day in the kitchen: A lightbulb went out.
I know what you're thinking: What, is this 1956? Lightbulbs don't go out anymore. The new ones last forever. Years. Decades. They're guaranteed to still work after the sun exhausts its nuclear fuel.
True. But these were incandescents. I shouldn't say that out loud, because some people are devotees of the old style bulbs, and when they find out you have incandescents, they want to know if you can, you know, hook them up. "Do you know a guy? I can meet anywhere. I'll make sure I'm not followed."
No, these were special incandescents. Very large globes for fixtures over the table. About the size of a basketball, and, might I add, the similarity ends there. You could pass one, but forget about dribbling it.
I had a box of replacements in the basement and went downstairs to get one. Hmm. Only one left. I put it in; it sparked and then died.
I had the terrible sensation that 20 years of a simple, consistent illumination solution was about to end.
Maybe not! Off to the big-box hardware store. It's a pleasant place in the evening. There's a lady playing show tunes on a grand piano at the top of the escalator, right by low-flush toilets. You're surprised they don't have her sitting on a porcelain throne; that would be good marketing. I enjoyed some "West Side Story" as I was lofted from the first floor to the second. Usually I patronize my local hardware store, even though they don't have a guy who whistles "I Feel Pretty" as he ascends a stepladder, but I knew they didn't have this bulb.
Turn right, down four aisles, turn left, bottom shelf. That's where they used to be. Not anymore.
Off to the other big-box store, which does not have a piano. You've got guys with a wheeled pallet of drywall, and they're probably not thinking "what this experience really needs is some Sondheim." I went directly to the place where the big globes should be. The bulb was not there.
The bulb will never be there, ever again. It has passed into the realm of Special Order. Worse yet, it's a special order during the supply chain crisis, which means I'm more likely to see a unicorn in the backyard teaching piglets to take wing than get the bulbs delivered. And, even then, the box probably would get pilfered from the porch.
"You could ride the unicorn to see where the thief goes," you say. Good idea. I think you can steer them using the horn. But it's not like I have a saddle in the shed I could use. Even so, by the time you get the buckles on — well, point is, I would have to get a replacement.
Ah, but what kind of light did I want? In the old days it was simple: We got one kind of light, and it's the kind that makes things visible. The only choice we had to make was between 40W and 60W. Now we are blessed with many mood-setting options and technologies.
Daylight: Basic default whitish glow.
Warm Daylight: Wan noon light through the window of a chain-smoker.
Soft White: Think "Sour cream, only composed of photons."
Bright White: When you want your kitchen to look like an operating room. During a supernova. In Antarctica.
I like the bright white, but my wife prefers Warm Daylight. Like the nursery rhyme: Jack Sprat preferred bright white, his wife preferred warm glow; and in between the two of them they had warm glow because Jack wasn't an idiot.
I considered getting the bulbs that can be controlled by my phone or by voice. Every evening, the last thing I say is "Turn off all the lights," like a stoic Roman on his deathbed. But adding the kitchen table lights would be ridiculous. The switch is right there. It's not as if the act of pushing the button is so exhausting I have to take to the couch for a few minutes. And what if I get laryngitis? We sit in the dark until the antibiotics kick in?
On the other hand, the system lets you set different colors for your bulbs, and I can easily see my wife going for that.
"Look! I just adjust the slider, and the lights are deep red!"
"Yes, but why?"
"For Christmas! And developing photos! Or, we have a party with an old-time brothel theme!"
"Not for Christmas, we aren't."
It's all annoying, but in the end you get the precise light you want, with the exact technology, lower energy bills and home automation. I am fully on board with this exciting new world of consumer options in the exhilarating realm of light-bulb advancement.
I just never thought I'd consider paying $49 for a smart light bulb. I hate to think what happens the next time I get an idea, and the metaphorical bulb appears over my head. What if it's not compatible with my home system, and I can't turn it off? I'll keep everyone awake all night.