| How many times have you started into a small repair project that seems as if it ought to be pretty simple and straight forward but ends up morphing into something akin to repairing the Hubble Telescope? In a clumsy suit while suspended above the earth in the vacuum of space? With the only thing between you and a certain death is a slim cord tied to a space ship? You get the picture.
My friend came to me recently with a lamp. It was a small lamp and nothing special, just very old. It was made out of white glass and was more or less fully functional, except that it had once had hand painted flowers or something on it that had worn off over the years and was missing the hurricane globe that went over the bulb. It was very Victorian and not really my cup of tea, but it had belonged to her grandmother, who was her favorite person in the world, and she was very sentimental about it. At first, my only dealings with the lamp were to be that I would paint new flowers on it. I was fine with that. Painting a bunch of little posies seemed simple enough, and it was, although painting anything small requires patience and a steady hand. So I painted the lamp. I was all done, right? Wrong.
In the course of painting the lamp I noticed that the wiring was something less than modern and suggested to her that once I was finished painting the thing she ought to have her husband rewire it. I can rewire a lamp but saw no reason why I should since she has a perfectly serviceable husband to do the job. I finished the lamp and delivered it to her. My involvement with the stupid thing should have ended there, right? Wrong. One day when we were out shopping she told me that I needed to help her find the stuff needed to rewire it. Ok, that was a simple enough concept. We went to our local home improvement store. I need to mention here that the lamp had an interesting attachment that the globe was supposed to sit in that screwed around the actual socket at the top. After much searching and inquiry of sales people who tried to be helpful but failed miserably, we came to the inescapable conclusion that no one made sockets with threads around the outside anymore and finding one would be impossible, or at least, very difficult. We were finally forced to make the decision that we would have to keep the original socket and just replace the wiring, so she bought what she needed and that was that, right? Wrong.
Now she begged for my assistance in finding a globe for the top. Sadly, all the modern globes that we found were too small at the bottom to fit snugly into the stupid frame that was supposed to hold it. We looked everywhere. We were advised to try flea markets and antique and collectible stores. This involved running around the known universe searching for hurricane globes under every rock and in every nook and cranny. We carried that stupid lamp all over the place trying to find the right thing that would fit and not look any uglier than it absolutely had to. (That's me talking. Remember, she loves the wretched lamp). She ended up finding 3 different globes that fit in 3 different shapes. Deciding which one she wanted to use was her problem, not mine, and I was all done, right? Wrong again.
Her husband replaced the wiring but something went wrong with the lamp. It worked just fine but nothing seemed to fit anymore. It had 2 glass parts, the bottom half, which sat on a marble base, and a kind of globe that sat above the base with brass fittings between them. After being rewired the stupid thing was about as steady on it's feet as a drunken Victorian sailor. Everything kept shifting. The bottom part went left and the top part went right. I looked at it closely and realized that her husband, who would probably have preferred to throw the lamp out, had put it back together with the inner stabilizing pole upside down. The wire threads through the pole and one end is slightly different than the other. No problem, I told her, we'll just pull out the wire and thread it through the other way. Wrong again. It pulled out easily enough but threading it back through the other way turned out to be the one heroic labor given to Hercules in the myths that you never read about. He had to kill the Nemean Lion, clean the Augean stables, capture Cerberus, the 3 headed dog of Hades, and thread an electrical wire through the metal stabilizing pole of my friend's dead grandmother's lamp.
Holy Hannah, what a task that turned out to be. We tried every clever way we could think of to get that wire through but in the end it came down to brute strength and infinite patience. She called her husband at work to ask him how he did it and his response was, with great difficulty and over a lot of time, which kind of explains why he was less than pleased that we had undone it. It seems that the old wire was somewhat thinner because it was less insulated. What a surprise. I was there until midnight fixing that hideous lamp but when we finished it held together and worked. I should be done, right? Wrong. My friend called me and told me that the metal around the socket seems to get rather warm. I know what it is and I know that it is my fault. By the end I was exhausted and careless when I wired it. I told her not to use it until I fix it. Or, I could just jump the border, beg for asylum, and defect to Canada. That would work, right?