Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Light Switch: On or Off?

Here's another guest entry from my grandfather in BC; where he talks about his obsession with light switches. I must confess that I do the same thing. We have a bank of four switches next to our kitchen, and I do like to have them all ligned up. I wonder if Ferda has ever noticed?

To my wife the only purpose of a light switch is to be turned on. Every time she passes one she seems to hear it crying to be used, and she responds. She is never known to turn one off - except when going to bed. It is as if she understands their deep need, that only when switched on can they feel fulfilled and justifying their existence. So she obliges them

My own light switch fetish is quite different. It is a matter of order. In several places in the house are two or three light switches in the same panel. Several rooms have two entrances, at opposite ends perhaps, where, as also at the tops and bottoms of stairs, again there are two or three light switches in a row. I am never comfortable unless all those in each switch bank are in the same position – up or down.

At the foot of the half flight of stairs into my ‘office’ is a bank of three switches. One is for a light over the stairs which is rarely needed. The others are for various ceiling lights which are often necessary. When later I leave through the other door, up the half flight of stairs to the bedroom landing, again there are three switches, two for those room ceiling lights, the third for a light at the top of those stairs.

On entry it distresses me to find the switches awry as they usually are. The stairwell light switch can be moved either way to fit the others whilst often both ceiling lights are needed but one switch is up and the other down. That disorderliness leads to lack of concentration. And when I turn off the ceiling lights as I leave up the other stairway I am lucky if both light switches are then pointing the same way. What then about the third one to light the way up the stairs? To keep it in order with the others I will, rather than turn it on and spoil the symmetry, creep up the stairs in the darkness until fumbling at the top and eventually by feel finding the first of the landing double switches and probably upsetting their symmetry.

There are similar problems at the top and bottom of the main stairs, at the two bedroom doors, at the doors at each end of the drawing room, at each end of the garage and, particularly, on the ground floor where a single switch, two double, and one in a bank of three switches control from four positions the hall and adjacent laundry room lights.

Suppose that in the dark I am first home. Beside my car is the far garage switch to light my way to the opposite corner, to the half flight of stairs up to the door into the house. At the top is a double switch - one to turn off the garage lights, the other for the laundry room lights which I shall now need. If that means the switches are up and down I can turn off the garage light to get it pointing the same way then fumble in the dark to open the door and hasten through to where there is another bank of two, one for the laundry room lights, the other for the hall lights which I need to see to turn off the burglar alarm. If that results in disharmony of those two switches I can, hurrying lest the alarm run out of time and start up, instead turn left in the dark and in the short passageway fumble to find the single switch to the hall lights so as to see the alarm control box to deactivate it.

My wife will appreciate the driveway entrance and other outside lights so at the front door I turn on those two switches. But the third switch, that controls the hall ceiling lights, is now pointing the wrong way. I align it with the others by putting the hall lights out and then go back to one of the other banks of switches and turn the lights on there - but that may put another double switch at odds.

With my wife home I can turn off the outside lights. Now that bank of three switches in the hall out of order again and I should start all over once more.

I cannot help myself even though it is not worth the trouble nor the wear and tear on bulbs of switching on and off. And creeping around in the dark to avoid spoiling a switch symmetry may well one day lead to a fall and broken leg.

Yet since writing this a postscript is needed. On Christmas Day I happened to notice that one bank of three switches had them all pointing the same way. Greatly daring I looked at another, then crept round the house checking them all. Somehow, for some ethereal reason, miraculously all over the house every bank of switches was pointing in the same direction. Such perfect symmetry cannot have been accident or coincidence, some greater power must have arranged it as a very special present.

Surely that can never happen again. Does it perhaps signify a Happy Ending? Yes; for I take it as a signal now to abandon my fetish in exchange for my wife’s. If the electricity bill is acceptable then at least life will be less complicated and certainly safer.


Matt said...

Try these light switches instead

Anonymous said...

Fame at last Jack

UrSisPino said...

James, you are hilarious... Your description of "your wife", a.k.a. my sis, with the light switches... HAHA...Still laughing!