Monday, February 21, 2005

Lamp shades and physics... how to correct a "wobble".

Glass lamp shades were made to be broken! It's just a matter of time.

You know those pedestal lamps, those pole lamps with the exotic glass shades on top? Who the Hell thought of those? Think about it. The lamp is comprised of a base that is 12 to 14 inches, usually brass or some other type of metal and a 3 to 4 inch diameter metal pole that runs from the base up about 4 to 5 feet to where the light fixture and SHADE are attached. The key to realizing there's something wrong with this design is that the whole lamp "wobbles" from side to side when you first stand it up on the floor. They're top heavy! No way around it. A slight nudge from the cat, a bump by the dog, a nudge by your Dad and they wobble. How many times have you had one wobble on you?

And the glass shade. It's not made of everyday normal glass... it's made of that etched, stressed glass that tends to shatter into a few large shards and a gazillion tiny little razor sharp slivers that slide across the floor after impact and imbed into carpet or cloth or come to rest in those areas where there's most likely going to be the most foot traffic in the house... you know that path where innocent, unprotected soles of feet hit the floor. It's amazing how the designers of these lamps figured this out! They're evil geniuses.

I know, I helped my daugther and son in law move their family into their new house over the weekend. They HAD a matching set of pole lamps... fairly expensive ones too. Now, I'm not necessarily known for my coordination when it comes to holding heavy boxes of china and balancing a lamp behind me with my left foot. Obviously, I can't drop the boxes to grab the lamp nor can I judge the lamp's side to side sway without seeing it. That coupled with my broad shoulders trying to move through a tight space and my inability to gauge the strength of corrective nudges with my left foot spelled disaster for the lamp couple.

Here's how it all went down... I'm 51 years old, tired from moving a bunch of heavy items (I usually get the heavy ones because I'm stronger than most of the folks helping), arms are burning from the weight of the boxes, knees are rubbery and I'm trying to get from the U-Haul into the garage where I can put the boxes down and shake the pain off. In particular, the arthritis in my left shoulder was really acting up and my right elbow was on fire from the strain of the boxes.

As I stepped off of the U-Haul ramp I was looking for a place to put the boxes... actually, even before I stepped off the ramp. I spied a spot on an empty chair in the middle of the garage surrounded by two pole lamps and other assorted furniture. Perfect! There was a narrow path that wound through the boxes and household goods to the chair. I can negotiate it! No problem!

Strain, fatigue and stress tend to negatively influence rational thought processes. I know this... knew this going into it. I just didn't recognize or realize how I was being affected by it. All I could think of was getting those boxes of precious china out of my hands and onto something, somewhere where they would be safe... out of my hands

As I worked my way through the boxes and furniture along that narrow path towards the chair I felt my right shoulder nudge one of those pole lamps. The chair was only three feet away from me when it happened and I really don't have those uncanny reflexes I had when I was younger. By the time I realized the lamp was "wobbling" I was past it. By instinct my left foot came up behind me to "nudge" the pole and stop the wobble. Well, taking physics into account... when you "nudge" a wobbling, top heavy object low or high on the pole at the most extreme point of the positive wobble the nudge not only helps the object increase it's wobble back the other way but, if the nudge is done with a bit more force than necessary can actually launch the object across the room. Trust me, I know... I'm now a veteran "lamp launcher".

In short... according to the witnesses in the room at the time it looked like I had performed one of the best Wado Ryu reverse roundhouse kicks I had ever performed... a demonstration of handless defense. I caught the pole of the lamp with the ball of my booted left foot just above it's center point at the most extreme point of it's wobble with the apparent force of a mule kicking a farrier. According to my son in law the lamp "went flying". Not like it was supposed to do... not what it was designed to do.

That friggin glass lamp shade wasn't attached. It was just "sitting" on it's perch atop the lamp. As the pole lamp went one way the lamp shade went the opposite direction and found the only place in the garage that wasn't covered with boxes, bags of clothes or soft, protective couches... you know, a place where it could have had a chance for survival. Instead, it fell soundly on the cold cement floor shattering into a few shards and a gazillion tiny razor sharp slivers of glass that found their way into the laundry basket of dirty clothes, the cloth fabric of the love seat and dining room chairs, the basket of shoes and the opened bag of dog food.

I guess it was quite a sight... slow motion and all according to the witnesses. Shoulder nudge, lamp wobble, reverse round house... even the lamp flying through the air and the shade hitting the floor. All slow motion. Excepting the loss of the lamp my son (who was also helping with the move), grandson and son in law were impressed with the show. My wife, daughter and grand daughter had a different opinion.

From that point forward I was assigned the tasks of "setting" the curtain rods and "hanging" the curtains throughout the house. A task I was capable of. At least you'd think I was. But then again, that's a different story and isn't entirely my fault... all I can say is that if the package says "84 inches x 47 inches" you would think you could hold the manufacturer to that. New houses don't need extra holes in the wall... I'm learning as I'm going. Thank God for "Spackle" and Colgate tooth paste... Nothing a little bit of Spackle, Colgate and touch up paint can't remedy. I don't think my daughter will ever find out.

Unless she reads this blog.

1 comment: said...

I loved this!!! Hilarious!!!