Shedding Light on Lights

hanging light bulb
Photo by Burak Kebapci on

There are 58 light bulbs within the lights of our house and sometimes it seems that all of them are on at once. There are many things that made no sense to me as a child that I rebelled against as an adult. Turning off a light when you leave a room is not one of them. I’ve tried to get the kids to turn off a light when the leave a room, but it is a lost cause. No amount of threats, bribes, cajoling, blackmail, or pleading can make them remember to flip a switch when they leave a room. All of these lights are energy efficient and our electric bill is never high, but it is the principle of the matter. For reasons I can’t quite articulate, I am disturbed when a light is on in a room and the room is otherwise unoccupied.

After the kids leave for school in the morning, I find myself on light patrol, roaming the house, wrist poised to flick any switch in the ON position. The Little Man always seems to leave on the lights in his room, which is downstairs. He neglected the stair light as well, even though there is a switch at both the top and bottom of the stairs. He constantly forgets to turn off lights in bathrooms he’s been in. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve reminded him to turn off lights on the game room when he is finished, only to find the lights on when I wander down there. I’ve placed a large sign by the door to the game room: TURN OFF LIGHTS. The sign is ignored.

Usually the light in the girls’ room is on after they have left for school. Often the hall light is on, and the hall bathroom light. I turn all of these off on my rounds, but it is like painting a bridge. By the time I get back upstairs, lights have somehow gone on again.

Our Christmas tree and holiday lights are connected to smart outlets and they turn off and on automatically. I think what we need is motion sensors, that will illuminate a room when someone is present and deluminate (to borrow a term from Harry Potter) a room when it is vacant.

In the evening, I put on the light above the stove to act as a nightlight for anyone who wanders into the kitchen in the middle of the night for a late night snack (usually me). But I turn it off in the morning. The light in our bedroom is often on because Kelly works in there, and then forgets to turn off the light when she leaves the room for an extended period.

I have no explanation for why this bothers me as much as it does. There really is no reason for it. Sure, the kids are forgetful when it comes to lights, but I am forgetful with things. When I take the trash out, I always plan to replace the old trash bag with a new one, but something about the walk to the trash bin outside erases that from my memory. Two hours later, Kelly reminds me. How is this any different from the kids forgetting to turn out a light?

To me, forgetting to turn off a light is just another sign of how frantic everything is in the modern world. There is too much going on to be bothered with turning off a light.

Why is it that a lightbulb can’t be built with a motion detector within it? All you’d have to do is screw in the lightbulb and it would go in when people were in the room and turn off when the room was empty. That would solve a lot of frustration on my part.

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