My Reading Lamp


While we were driving, my wife cried, “Look!”

“At what?” I asked.



“Right THERE!”

I wanted to tell her that I did see what she saw but I knew that was not true. We both see the same things but she see them differently. Everything depends on what we consider worth looking at.

This time her head swiveled as we rolled past whatever it was. “I can’t believe you didn’t see that.”

“What?” I asked again.

“That furniture store is going out of business.  The sign says, ‘Everything must go!’”

“Honey,” I explained, “that store has been going out of business for twenty years.”

“Pull over.”

“What for?”

“I want to look at lamps.”


If I were to list everything I needed, another lamp would place below an impacted tooth. We do not need another lamp. Nor do I want one.

But we went in anyway.

The first lamp to greet us had a square porcelain base and a square shade. I peeked under the shade to see if the bulb was equally square. There was no bulb, so the jury was out.

Across the aisle stood a lamp designed as a prop for the movie Beetlejuice. Its contorted glass base might be described as surreal but only if surreal was less real.

Moving on, we passed art projects gone horribly wrong and lamps so huge they must be explained to guests. After that, it was all gratuitous bling.

The thing is, those lamps frightened me.  They were everywhere in the store and were obviously popular – which could only suggest one thing:  I cannot understand the people who would buy them, which in a very large, very popular store means almost everyone.  I had become a stranger in a strange land.

“Let’s go.”

“No,” she said, “you need a reading lamp.”

“I have one.”

She just looked at me.

It is true that my reading lamp is a disaster. It wobbles on its stand like a drunk and the light sputters for no reason.  When it blinks out, I have to thunk it back to life with my index finger. But I like it. It is what I have used for years and though I know I should replace it, I haven’t the heart.

“Do you see anything you like?”

“Not even close.”

“Keep looking,” she said.

Then I heard it.

Pthhzzt…. Thunk!

And there, across an acre of Naugahyde, a young clerk impatiently struggled with the old reading lamp that flickered on his desk.

“How much for the lamp?” I asked.

“It’s not for….” he started to say – then clipped his sentence as I pointed to the banner that proclaimed: “Everything must go!

Author: Almost Iowa

34 thoughts on “My Reading Lamp”

  1. A truer line I haven’t heard lately than this one: Everything depends on what we consider worth looking at. I get accused all the time of not paying attention. I am paying attention. Just not at what I am sposed to be paying attention to.

  2. I was went to a huge store that was entirely devoted to lamps and “lighting,” each one uglier and more expensive than the one before. So I entirely understand your aversion to buying a new lamp. If I wasn’t afraid of the ancient wiring being a fire hazard, I’d buy lamps only from antique stores. At least those lamps look like lamps! (And I hope the clerk sold you his desk lamp.)

    1. Old lamps are usually every easy to rewire. If the stand wasn’t broken on my reading lamp, I would spend the five minutes required to put in a new wire and socket.

  3. ‘I cannot understand why anyone would buy them. They are everywhere in the store’ – I guess that explains why they were going out of business.

  4. I have a husband who blurts out random words as we are driving. Usually when we have passed whatever he wants me to see. Yes, we shoule see the same things, but only if we are both looking in the same direction.

  5. There was a long-time oriental rug store in Houston famous for those going out of business sales. But the best ever was the dude who got into it with the Texas Attorney General because he actually named his Dallas store, “Going Out of Business.” The story was publicized enough that I remembered it when I read your tale of the trip to the lamp store. I’ll give the guy extra credit for creativity.

    I can imagine a pretty good parody — “Going Out of Business” — done to Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “Taking Care of Business.”

  6. When we’re driving and I say “Oh look!” My husband usually slams on the brakes yelling WHAT. He’s thinking that I’m seeing a child running in front of the car. When I turn and say “The lilacs are out!” He has a murderous look on his face. But he would never enter a store at that moment. Unless it was to get away from me.

    1. Oh… we have had a lot of those moments. It is why she drives most of the time. That way when the passenger yells, “LOOK!”, it usually is a child running pell-mell for the street.

      1. Haha. My husband doesn’t ever want me to drive, even though I’m the better driver. C-O-N-T-R-O-L. Although I think he mentioned something about it being easier to tune me out once….

  7. This post made me laugh! I loathe shopping. I hate it in general, and I am never, ever drawn to those ‘everything must go’ signs, mostly because I know the reason that they didn’t go before – nobody in their right mind would have them

    1. But see…. that is just the thing. People flock to those sales and I cannot understand why. It undercuts my faith in humanity…. or at least in sales.

    1. The Salvation Army Store has the best stuff. It might not be fashionable, it might not be high quality – but it is sure to irritate my wife when I bring it home. Priceless…

  8. Decent lamps are the hardest furnishings to find. Glad you discovered one you like!

  9. Another close to the heart story about store sign hooks, “everything must go.” Not that I would need anything in particular. Just saying, I’m snagged by this trap alone, no one nudges me. Yay, at least your found your lamp! Internet shopping? Chancy! Can’t see or feel the goods. 💛 Elizabeth

  10. Great story. I have had the “you need a new…”I like the one I have…” conversation, many many times. Stick to your guns until when you think that puppy, sparks fly (from the lamp, not your wife).

  11. Another great story. I can relate. Don’t want to replace items that work – most of the time. They’ve been a part of my life for many years. Plus, I go into sticker shock when I look at new items and try to visualize how they’ll look with my old furniture. sd

  12. I’d flee the furniture store, but I have to have a reading lamp that works. That’s what internet shopping was invented for. And sadly yes; I confess my eyes will be drawn to the internet ad as we “drive ” by.

    1. I have to say that I have never been dragged into an internet store – but for things like lamps, I have to touch them to know if I would get along with them.

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