Thursday, February 14, 2013

An Ode to Joy

Mardi Gras day did not dawn auspiciously here in the bear cave. It’s never auspicious when one trundles into the bathroom first thing in the morning, flips on the lights, and the fluorescent bulb above the medicine cabinet flickers and pops.

The other one who lives here decided it was time to ask the landlord for a new medicine cabinet. I thought this strange. Granted, the medicine cabinet we have is many years old and was up on the wall during the previous tenancy, but I hate asking the landlord to spend money because the money will eventually come from me in the form of a rent increase. Besides, we’re talking about a burnt-out light bulb here.

I decided to bide my time until Wednesday when I intended to slip out of the apartment and find a Valentine’s Day card and some chocolates. I would take the time while doing this chore to pick up another bulb and see if that might not resolve the crisis.

Then my USB hub blew out. I would definitely need to take that trip the next day.

Wednesday dawned—as is its usual wont—and when I had decided to leave, I discovered we were  getting that rain we had been promised for the day before. I grabbed an umbrella and set off on my three-block walk to the parking lot where our car is stashed.

Leaving the lot, I proceeded (to use police-report jargon) along Frenchmen Street to Dauphine Street where I took a right turn and proceeded (again) to Elysian Fields Avenue. (Don’t you love when I mention traversing these streets so many of you have only ever heard of in some old Tennessee Williams movie or other?) Once at Elysian Fields, I came to a stop behind two cars that were waiting at a red light.

The light changed to green, and the first car crossed the avenue. The second car did the same. As I was entering the intersection, I caught in the corner of my eye another vehicle racing through the downpour at an accelerated rate of speed, heading at me and showing no sign of intending to slow down.

Ah, but, dear reader, I was sober and slammed on my brakes, and he missed me. I then sat on my horn and raised an alarm to alert the pedestrian to my right so that he might not step out into the abyss that follows being slammed by a speeding car, thrown up into the windshield then up toward the sky before plunging down and landing hard on the asphalt where bones are shattered and life is snuffed.

He waved at me in gratitude.

All this being done, I continued on my way to my neighborhood Walgreen’s for the card and the chocolates. Unfortunately, there was no place to park so I did not stop but continued on to Office Depot where I intended to buy my new USB hub.

From there I headed to another Walgreen’s up on Saint Charles Avenue, that boulevard of stately homes. Yes, O reader, a Walgreen’s sits in the midst of New Orleans’ once-great wealth and opulence. O tempora! O mores!

Now it was time to find that light bulb. Finding it turned out to be easier than I had expected because I had written down the strange code on the old bulb that identified its size and wattage. The person waiting on me at Mary’s Ace Hardware (on North Rampart Street, a block away from Basin—remember Basin Street Parade?) was thus able to find it in a snap, and I was off again home.

“What surprise did you bring me?” asked Bob, and I revealed the new fluorescent light. He seemed indifferent, obviously having a honey bun in mind, but I was brimming with anticipation as I rushed up the stairs to the bathroom and coaxed the bulb into its fixture.

I flipped on the switch, and the bathroom burst into light, a cool, white flood of radiance.

I was astonished at the brightness and laughed with joy.

A feeling of happiness came over me and clung to me for about twenty-three minutes. That’s a pretty fair happiness-duration in my experience, and I was grateful.

My question, though, is this: what the hell was that all about? Why would plugging in a light bulb make me as giddy as a slightly-overweight seventeen-year-old girl on a prom date with the captain of the football team?

It occurs to me that life is strange. Perhaps nothing she gives us can truly be anticipated. We go out in the rain, on a hunt-and-gather expedition; we get what we’d intended to get and end up with something in our hands we never expected. Sometimes it’s a broken egg or two in the carton at the bottom of the shopping bag; other times, it’s just a bright light.

No, not “just a bright light.”

Say, rather, a brilliant glow.

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