Light Bulb Etiquette

There’s a light bulb in my bathroom that has started making this annoying tik-tik-tik sound. A rapid, electrical noise, kind of like someone is electrocuting snap, crackle & pop. I think I’ll replace it. It also has the unfortunate capacity to blind the unwary if not prepared for its wattage, so there’s further incentive. But it’s okay, I’ve been replacing all my bulbs with those long lasting, lower power ones everyone likes so much. But all this light bulb thinking made me wonder about a matter of etiquette: when someone moves out of their flat, they take most of their stuff with them, right? But there are some things you leave behind, like carpet. Sometimes even toilet paper, at least the roll currently on the dispenser. Light bulbs fit into that category, I’ve always assumed. But is that still the case? What if you’ve finally packed out the place with those eco-friendlier, power dieting, cool spiral shaped ones? Is it okay to take those with you? Or is that just being a tight bastard? I thought they, the new flash ones, might have taken a step up the ‘valued possession’ ladder and thus follow their masters to their new house. Of course it would suck to walk into your new place and snap a femur due to some miserly fucker having nicked off with the light source showing the basement stairs. And you don’t exactly turn up to a new house, purchased or rented, with light bulbs, do you? Unless…


That was what I was thinking in my bathroom this morning as I squinted through my weekly shave while the 2000-watt light bulb behind me did its machine gun impression. Obviously I paused a couple of times to focus on what I was doing, like when shaving that edgy bit of the jaw, under the ear (that is hard! Girls talk about their ankles but I really don’t think that they appreciate the complexities of that jaw bit), and I always concentrate when I’m doing my upper lip, but that’s just because I harbour an unreasonable fear of hacking off my septum, or at least a chunk of it. I didn’t really get to finish my light bulb etiquette crisis as I then got distracted by the novel I’m currently reading: “The Water Cure” by Percival Everett. Everett is fast becoming one of my absolute favourite authors. I don’t read the blurbs of his novels anymore, as I know I’ll read it regardless, and it’s nice to have no knowledge of plot before starting. This current book is amazing. He has a remarkable ability to focus his language to the servitude of the theme. There’s a fair bit of political commentary going on in there (he’s American) about the U.S. Wars and the multitude of nefarious moral questions they engender, torture being one of them (that sounds very dry but Everett creates a heart rending metaphor to explore it). The text is quite fragmentary, necessarily so, and one of the bits I read right after shaving was a short parable thing (I think parable is the right term) followed by a quote from ‘Alice in Wonderland’ (for some reason I love quotes from Alice in Wonderland or The Wizard of Oz) . I laughed and then kind of didn’t, once it had sunk in. I thought it very good, so I’m copying it in below so anyone reading this can have a look. I highly recommend this book, and I highly recommend reading other Everett books like, American Desert, Glyph or, especially the brilliant, Erasure.

It was stifling hot at Guantanamo. It was always hot there. Marines marched around being marines. Cubans lived their lives on the other side of the impressive fence. Three crew-cut, muscled, narrow-eyed spooks-in –training rested after their cross-country run. One was from Canada, one was from Australia, and the last was an American. The Canadian opened the envelope that held their next training exercise. It said, simply: Find a Deer.

The Aussie went off into the woods and came back empty handed. He said, “No deer out there, mate.”

The Canadian went next and came back with nothing. He agreed that there were no deer in the woods.

The American went into the woods, was gone for a while, and returned with a rabbit.

“What’s this all about?” asked the Aussie.

“That’s not a deer,” said the Canadian.

“Yes, it is,” said the American. “Ask it.”

“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice?

“You must be,” said the Cat, “or else you wouldn’t have come here.”


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