Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Let a Little Light In

When I bought my house, one of the odds and ends that had been left behind by the previous owner was a night light in a wall socket in the master bedroom. As I gave tours of my new house before I moved in, one of my friends saw the light and remarked, "Oh, how cute, there's a little night light!"

The actual night light that came with my house. Classy.

Being a grown-up man, and having not used a night light for almost 30 years, I moved the light to the spare room. I don't need a night light! I thought, full of male bravado.

But in the first few weeks of living there, I noticed something about my house.

It's very dark at night.

There are no street lights in my neighborhood. Every other place I've ever lived has had street lights or parking lot lights or some other ambient light coming in through windows. This house doesn't have any of that. It's very dark. So that means that when I invariably have to get up and pee in the middle of the night, I have to make my way through the hall like a blind zombie until I can find the bathroom switch.

After a few months of that, I fetched the night light from my guest room and started using it in my bedroom. The change was immediate and enormous. Now when I woke up in the middle of the night I wasn't so disoriented. And I had to admit, the night light gave off a comforting glow. It made me feel more secure.

But I'm still, like, a man & shit.


This week, the old crappy night light that came with the house died. It wasn't just the bulb, but the switch itself was busted. It wouldn't work at all.

So I was faced with a dilemma. Instead of just using the night light I inherited from the house, I needed to actively buy one for myself. I thought of going without one, and even tried sleeping with my blinds open to try to soak in any ambient light from the neighborhood. But after just one night of waking up and having to stumble blindly to the bathroom, I was desperate for a replacement.

I was in the market for a new night light.

I drove to North Prospect, the commercial mecca of Champaign-Urbana, to find one. The thing is, I have no idea what kind of store would sell night lights. Hardware store? Target? Meijer? Best Buy? A drugstore like Walgreens? What genre of product is a night light?

I stopped at Target. Once there, I had no idea where in the store a night light would be, or if they even sell them. Is this an impulse item that they stock at the checkout lane?

I wandered around-- saw a sign for Kids' Bedroom and went there. It was just sheets and stuff. I wandered around the toy section, thinking it might be there. Got distracted by some cool Lego sets. Wandered some more over to the baby supplies. They had lots of neat gadgets for newborns and toddlers, but no night lights. (It smelled like new babies in those aisles, which surprised me. I thought babies smelled like babies, but it turns out they smell like all the crap we buy them.)

I went to the garden section, and they had some neat solar outdoor lights, but nothing for indoors.

Finally, in the vicinity of the light bulbs, I asked someone. They were at the end of the aisle.


Let me just say, night light technology has come a long way. Instead of the mini-lamppost model I had inherited, the new one I bought was an LED light that looked like a cross between a robot and a marital aid.

Old and new, side by side

The cool thing is that it has an automatic light sensor-- it turns on when it's dark and turns off when it's light. So I never have to worry about switching it on or off, which is something I had to at least twice a day with the old one.

My new night light's comforting glow.

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