2011.02.09 In the dark

Written by David Green.


Sometimes it seems as though I must be in training for the failing eyesight of old age. That must be the reason I do so much in the dark.

The other morning, for example, I came downstairs to do the usual: I walk through the dining room doorway and into the living room to turn on a lamp and turn up the heat.

I could turn on the overhead light before I walk in, but I don’t want all that brightness. I just want the small light, enough to see the thermostat and guide the way to my computer.

So I always walk across the dark room to the lamp, but that particular morning was different. I nearly performed some acrobatics tripping over the small stool that had never been in that location before. Hmmm, I wonder who would have left it there.

That’s clearly a hazard of walking in the dark, but Colleen might suggest that I deserve it. I walk down the stairs in the morning in the dark (sometimes surprised by a pair of shoes at the bottom); she, on the other hand, turns on the light. I go for the not-so-bright fluorescent over the sink in a dark kitchen; she’ll take the bright overhead.

I’ll leave the bathroom light out if it’s a brief visit to wash my hands, for example. Colleen will later note the dirt left in the sink—that I never saw in the dark. I’m still washing in the dark, but I’m generally remembering to rinse out the sink when I’m done.

Like the morning walk, the darkened bathroom can present its challenges. Last week I start rubbing hand cream on my dry hands and soon discovered it was someone else’s hair gel. What a slimy mistake that was. I probably deserved that, too, for accidentally using someone else’s toothbrush in the dark. The toothbrush holder had been moved and mine had changed its position.

There are a couple of rather famous incidents from my dark past. Fifteen or 20 years ago I ate a salad in the dark because of a thunderstorm. The electricity was still on; I just wanted to watch the lightning and you can’t do that in a lighted room.

I found the bowl of left-over salad, added some of Paul Newman’s salad dressing, and sat down at the kitchen table to eat and watch the show. 

I can’t remember how I eventually discovered that I had the compost bowl of vegetable peelings and such, but it wasn’t bad at all with a good dressing.

When Brad Whitehouse was working with me, I came up with the idea of walking the path along Bean Creek in the dark. No flashlight. We just slowly made our way to the Tourist Camp without falling into the water or acquiring poison ivy.

It was inspired by something I heard on BBC radio about the pleasures of night walking. Brad and I made it there and back all right and I suppose I would describe it as somewhat of a pleasure.

On Wednesday mornings I take the newspapers to the post office and I never turn on the hallway light on my way downstairs. I know where my coat and shoes are located.

Many times I’ve stopped into the Observer office after hours to quickly get something, so I don’t turn on the lights. Of course I’ve tripped over chairs and a waste basket, I’ve run into counters or unexpectedly encountered the Linotype.

There are times when I awaken at 3:33 and finally get bored and get up. You think I’m going to turn on a light for that? No, I wander downstairs and I can gaze out the window at the night world and if it’s warm weather, open a door and step out on the porch to listen to the night noises. You can’t do that with a light on.

Colleen may complain about my darkness, but she also forces it on me. For several months of the year, I dress in the dark. She’s the midnight muser who sleeps in later than I. I can’t imagine the ruckus that would result if I were so bold as to turn on a light at 7 a.m.

She has no sympathy for my morning dressing adventure—she has no idea how many times I put on shirts and underwear backwards—but it might become a year-round challenge. 

There’s generally a little window light coming through, but last night she asked what I thought about buying a black-out curtain for our bedroom.

No thanks. If we’re under an air raid warning, I’ll gladly just sit in the dark.

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