My Life In Tech: How Many Geeks Does It Take To Change A Lightbulb?

Warhol's Light Bulbs

Photo: CC-licensed image by zetson, via Flickr

One night as I was doing the wash I flipped the light switch for the light in the laundry room.  Big flash of light, then darkness.

The light fixture in the laundry room is a globe that I have to stand on a ladder to remove before I can change the light bulb.

Three things about me:  I have a healthy respect for electricity, I live in a house built in the 1980’s, and I don’t have a fear of heights, but I do have a fear of falling.

I waited until the next day when it was light, climbed up on a step ladder and changed the light bulb. Brand new pack.  I climbed down, turned off the light and went off to do something somewhere else.  That night, I turned on the light.  Big flash of light, then darkness.


Changed the bulb again.  Flicked the switch.  Light came on.  Turned the light off,  turned the light on again.  Big flash of light, then darkness.

OK, OK.  I know the one about doing the same thing and expecting a different result.  I figured out that I needed to replace the fixture or do something with the wiring.  I just didn’t really relish the thought of standing on an aluminum ladder and monkeying around with electricity, so the next few loads of wash were done either in the daytime or by the light from the hallway.

One night after curling my skip mentioned that he’d rewired something in his house.  I told him my little story and he volunteered to come over the next day and fix this problem.   We’d both had many beers, and I wasn’t going to hold him to that, but sure as shooting the next day he showed up with a screw driver and a multimeter.

He climbed right up that aluminum ladder and started taking readings.  He said, “This doesn’t make sense.  Everything is working perfectly.”

I gave him another bulb from the package.  He screwed it in.  I turned on the light.  It lit.  I turned it off, then on again.  Big flash of light, then darkness.

“Do you have any other light bulbs,” he asked, “that you know WORK?”

I took one out of a lamp in the spare bedroom.  It worked in the laundry room.  I put a fresh bulb from that pack in the lamp in the spare bedroom and it would not light.  Nothing wrong with the fixture or the wiring in the laundry room.  The whole pack of bulbs was bad.  I don’t think that had ever happened to me before.

Now this guy just saved me a whole lot of time and money.  Replacing that fixture wouldn’t have made any difference.  It would just have been expensive and a hassle, and it wouldn’t have solved the problem.

Here’s the thing.   Troubleshooting is troubleshooting.  This is what I do for other people’s computers, but I was completely flummoxed when it came to troubleshooting my own light bulb problem.

I’ve had this running through my head ever since.

I’m beginning to see the light

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