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!

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