Triumph of the Light

When I moved into this apartment I bought one $17 lamp. I brought none with me. Most rooms had installed lights, but two did not, including the bedroom. That’s where I orginally used my one lamp. Eventually I decided it was a little too pathetic to light the room, and I wanted a light in my other room, so I bought a much nicer table lamp that ran me about $50. I keep telling myself I will wait for garage sale season and pick up a few lamps at reasonable prices, but even when garages sales are running I have difficulty caring enough to make time for them.

The little halogen bulb blew in the first lamp I bought, and I got a replacement. Then once the bulb was replaced the lamp stayed on. It was a touch-sensitive lamp with a little LED-illuminated “button” that was really just a metallic contact point–the button did not move.

I continued to use this lamp by simply plugging it in when I wanted it, and unplugging it otherwise. I used the lamp every morning, so every morning I fumbled in the dark to plug the lamp in. It was kind of a bother. Then the lamp decided to be perpetually off instead of perpetually on, and plugging it in only lit the LED standby light.

So I went and got a floor lamp for about $50, which was less decorative but more useful than the other table lamp I got for about the same price. But I was peeved at the first lamp for its short and lackluster service. So, even though the floor lamp did a better job illuminating the whole room, I went to the small hardware store (the first lamp was at a Bed Bath & Beyond and all other lamp purchases were at Lowe’s) and I spent time perusing their electrical selection. I was looking for a push-button switch with the same diameter as the dummy button on the touch lamp. I did not find anything that was quite what I wanted, but I took home a round spin-switch. I also had to get some wire nuts, electrical tape, and pliers, and I got a washer to make up the difference between the original button and my new dial.

The workings of the touch lamp were a little more complicated than I imagined. There were more wires involved in supporting the standby LED, the touch sensor itself, and the touch-button than I anticipated. But it was not hard to figure out which wires were coming in from the plug and which went to the bulb, so I cut out the rest and wired in my new switch. At first, actually, I wired the plug to the bulb and bypassed the switch, but I realized my mistake right after I made it.

The new switch did not fill the gap the way I originally intended, but it actually fit in well enough so that without using the washer or making any further modification, it looks plausibly like it was designed that way. And it works. And boy, I’m prouder than a peacock.

This was a very simple electrical task, and I don’t pretend it was any more than that, but I feel vindicated to have gone beyond the dull consumer resignation that cheap Chinese-produced goods are not meant to be repaired and can’t be repaired, and glad I was not deterred by the mystery of the touch-sensitive switch or the difficulty of replacing a customized switch. The switch cost about $4; everything else was not used up on just this project.

Some things can still be repaired, and, if you ask me, are still worth the time.