Stumbling Blocks: Just Another Bright Idea

I’ve always been a zealot for lighting.

The lighting of a room has always been a priority for me. My wife thinks I’m crazy. Before her, my mother thought the same. I guess it goes back to my life-long interest in photography, but who really knows.

That said, a couple months ago I was given a few of the new energy efficient “green” light bulbs to put into my lamps and light fixtures.

You know the ones, the little squiggly bulbs that are supposed to save us tremendous amounts of money.

I put one in my favorite lamp and tuned it on.

It was horrid.

It was like being in a tanning bed. The light was almost blue or purple in color; very cold looking. It took forever to get bright, and it made me want to vomit when I tried to read under it.

I took out another “green” light bulb that looked more like a traditional bulb.

Maybe it was better because it was shaped like a bulb, I thought.

No luck there. It was worse, and I can hardly believe this is what’s being called progress.

Within minutes, I had restored all of my old incandescent bulbs to their familiar homes.

It was like a cold drink on a hot day.

• • • •

I’ve been dreading the elimination of the old light bulb for some time.

It’s been on the horizon for the past several years, every since Congress deemed that they had to take it away from us because we weren’t smart enough to make our own decisions.

For those who aren’t aware, beginning this January, the United States government will begin phasing out the old incandescent light bulb. It will be a two-year process until, in 2014, they are pretty much all gone.

Already, Europe has gone down this road, and much to the disappointment of the general public there. Incandescent light bulb sales spiked for the year prior to their legislative elimination. Funny enough, one of the major stockpilers was the esteemed museums throughout Europe. Like myself, they realized these new energy efficient bulbs made everything look like a pile of manure – especially their treasured paintings.

The idea behind the new bulbs is that they will save us a tremendous amount of money on energy costs, as they do use far less energy.

Such decisions by the government seem to be more common.

They always seem to be telling us what’s best for us, rather than letting the markets and us – the consumers – decide what is the best product. If these new light bulbs were a better product, people would be buying them in droves in order to save money on a similar quality product.

Because these bulbs stink and everyone knows it, the government has to outlaw the older, better bulbs.

• • • •

I knew that there were going to have to be some changes when my little daughter first got her hands on the buttons of my stereo system.

Those changes were forced into action when she opened up the DVD player, stuffed it full of macaroni and cheese, and then closed it again.

We had two choices.

We could totally re-arrange our house by putting almost everything out of her reach, some five feet off of the floor, or just endure the process of teaching her that some things in the house are off limits.

The choice is to harshly restrict her world by eliminating things we don’t want her to mess with, or to leave those things where they are and teach her to leave them alone over time.

Not long after becoming a father did I realize that the best way is to teach kids boundaries within their environment, rather than taking everything away. Changing up the environment every few months as they grow – putting things behind locked doors, building new shelves up high, and restricting access to most things – only makes a kid angry. It also makes them want to mess with that forbidden object even more.

• • • •

I find that at every turn, with every passing year, there are more and more things that the government doesn’t want me to do – more and more DVD players that I can’t stuff with macaroni and cheese, if you will.

In California, you can’t use a gas lawnmower, nor can you fire up a charcoal BBQ grill. I think it would be safe to say what happens in California will soon happen in Massachusetts, and probably nationwide at some point – if the government gets its way.

We’re told that it’s wrong to drive trucks, vans or big vehicles.

They would appreciate it if we would jam ourselves and our families into those little tiny boxes on wheels – such as you see so often in places like Newton or Brookline; the vehicles that are taller than they are long.

What I don’t get is why I can’t choose where I want to spend my money and where I want to save it.

I know all about saving money. I have to. I pinch pennies in every direction that I can out of necessity – as so many of us do and have done for years.

But why can’t I spend money on my favorite light bulb if that’s what is important to me? Maybe I will save money and help the environment in some other way, such as walking more often and driving less often – as I also have already been doing for years.

Yet I hold out no hope.

That’s because it’s not about saving the environment as much as it is about forcing us to do something that is important to someone else.

So for now, like the Louvre Museum and other sensible Europeans, I’m going out to Wal-Mart to buy as many old light bulbs as I can fit into my vehicle – my big, gas-guzzling, soon-to-be-outlawed vehicle.

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