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June 08, 2008

Handyman ... or HandyCapable?

As long as we've owned our current house, the dining area has had this faux candelabra light fixture, with those little fake flame-shaped lightbulbs. The darn thing hung down well below head level, for me and Renee. If I had a nickel for every time I've bumped my head on that thing, I'd certainly be able to afford the bandaids that I had to buy because of it. I've cursed it, but until now, done nothing more about it.

This weekend, Jean determined that we were going to replace it. We went to Home Depot, Jean's idea of the Most Hellish Place On Earth, and bought a fluorescent fixture with a shiny beveled base. I bought a new light-switch, because the existing one was a dimmer, and dimmers on fluorescent fixtures are generally a no-no.

Now normally, I'd put the entire shebang on the shelf and wait until Jean's parents come to visit, since her dad has done a lot of landlordly repair work, and I, well, I have not. I try to avoid all forms of home improvement, as my experience has been uniformly dismal, and frustrating to boot. But I was feeling like I really wanted to get rid of the vampiric chandelier, so I resolved to give it a try.

Jean and Renee both dove in to help, and several breaker switches later, I'd proven I had no idea how to install the new switch-plate such that it would actually transmit current to the light. I put back the dimmer switch, and we moved on to the light fixture.

That turned out to be within our grasp, however sweaty and irritated that grasp was. Soon we were able to turn the new fluorescent fixture on. But not completely off. Turns out that our dimmer has never been installed such that it turns completely off. We just never really noticed, since the incandescent bulbs seemed to be dark.

Not the fluorescent one. It flickered with a ghostly light. Literally! In the middle of the night I got up and walked out into the dining room just for kicks, and it was like watching heat lightning on the distant horizon.

So today I was at Fry's for other reasons, and tried to get a light switch. They didn't have any. The local hardware store in Wilsonville had switches that seemed to have the same mysterious three terminals that had defeated me yesterday, so I moved on. The Tualatin hardware store was closed for Sunday. Finally, at Fred Meyers', I buckled and bought a light switch with three terminals. More breaker switching was had, and what do you know, the new switch worked! And no more ghostly flicker.

I feel the thing is probably installed incorrectly, but it seems to work, so I'm happy. No more bonked heads! At least not on a candelabra. I'm looking at you, oven hood!

Postscript

On a walk today, Jean and I were discussing the whole affair. I mentioned how over the years I've avoided doing anything about it because home repair is so very, very frustrating for me. But again, over the years, I've gotten bonked on the head by pointy bits of metal pretending to be decorative vine leaves, and that had to accumulate until it eventually overbalanced my aversion to home repair. Jean said I'd reached my Fed-Up Index!


Posted by dpwakefield at June 8, 2008 09:03 PM

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