Over 40 years ago, I bought an old brass desk lamp at a flea market. When I brought it home, I was amazed to find that the original neon bulb (or tube or whatever it is called) still worked. To appreciate this, keep in mind that it so old it has brass fittings on the tube (or bulb or whatever it is called).
My guess is that the lamp was made in the 20s or 30s, as they certainly weren’t using brass for lamps during the Second World War. By the 50s, things were being made out of plastic. Maybe it is my age and a longing for things even older than me, but I love that the lamp still works today.
No, it doesn’t just come on. You have to push the "on" button several times before it flickers to a start. Then it builds up light for a few seconds, warming up to full brightness.
The lamp sits in my study on top of my secretary desk. Below, I tap away at my computer, churning out blogs and columns like this one. (We tap now because you can’t "type" if it isn’t a typewriter.)
The light it gives is a warm, yellow glow. Not something I’d like to be under for hours a day, but it is quite soothing for an hour or two after a hectic day in the 21st century.
Most days, it seems to take almost all my energy just to keep up or even stay in place. But when I go through the ritual of coaxing this old lamp back on again, things slow down and I settle in for an hour or two under the golden glow of this antique fixture that still is capable of carrying out the tasks that hands so long ago fashioned it to perform.
What a time that must have been, when people built even something as ordinary as a lamp well enough to outlast themselves. Think about that for a moment: This lamp was built so well that it out-lived not only its creator, but also the very expectation that things should last.
We talk about how wonderful the computer age is, but when we buy something today, the clerk urges the purchase of a warranty as well, since no one expects the product to last out the year.
Yeah, we make more money and things that we can buy are incredible and fascinating, but when was the last time you purchased something that you expected would still be working long after you were dead?
We may have come a long way, baby, but are we really at a better place? I bought my lamp for ten or fifteen dollars 40 years ago and it is still working. Figuring it was 40 years old, or so, when I bought it, this lamp has lived longer than I have. It will likely outlast me.
Aging in Place, along with our stuff.
Scott Funk is Vermont’s leading Aging in Place advocate, writing and speaking around the state on issues of concern to retirees and their families. You can access previous Aging in Place columns and Scott’s blogs at scottfunk.org.