13 October 2005

Siestas and Light Bulbs

There is a reason I try not to be out, walking around at mid-day; the heat. Even as much as I thrive-like-a-lizard in hot weather, strolling on the streets between 11:30 and 2:00 simply isn’t advisable. You kind of feel like you might pass out at any moment, and that would prove embarrassing.

But yesterday, after a morning indoors, I was desperate to get out. I looked at the clock; 1:15, it wouldn’t be so bad. And there really isn’t much to walk to around here so my excursions are limited.

Umbrella opened to protect against those solar flares, I realized just how brutal the sun was. No cloud cover whatsoever to help cut down on the flames. I really need to get a darker umbrella. This one may keep the UV from penetrating, but does little in terms of giving true shade.

As I walked to the supermarket, I peeked into the small shops along the way, noticing that there wasn’t a lot of activity inside. The corner, open-courtyard restaurant was being hosed down after lunch, and had obviously served its last noon-time customer.

Inside the pitifully limited supermarket, with its rolling floors, (need to hang on to that cart!), I just couldn’t find the light bulbs I needed. Their supply was limited to compact fluorescents and I don’t do fluorescents. I grabbed two cans of soda and headed back home.

The motorbike taxi guys in front of the supermarket lounged on top of their bikes. They can actually fall asleep stretched out over the seat and handle bars, and I have yet to see one fall off. One called out, “Ride, madam?” while mimicking revving the engine with his hands, which is how they all ways solicit fares. The others ignored me. (note: that’s the French pronunciation of madam, left over vestiges of colonialism, and it beats the crap out of “Hey, you!)

A few shops up I passed the store that sells lamps and lighting fixtures. Oh, they’d have light bulbs! As with many stores here, the front is completely open. I looked inside but saw no one. As I ventured up the two steps to the entryway, I spotted someone lying on a mat in the back of the shop. Tentatively, I leaned in. The person napping turned out to be a woman. She saw me, got up, and beckoned me inside. I tried to protest, I mean it really was too hot to engage in commerce, but she insisted I come in.

Colorful lamps hung from the tall ceilings and jutted out from the walls. Table and floor lamps surrounded the perimeter. I headed for a glass display case on the left. There I pointed to the compact fluorescents and explained I wanted regular light bulbs, using my hands to approximate the shape.

The saleswoman bent down and extracted a 60 watt bulb in a box from the bottom shelf. I opened it and took it out. It was clear glass and I asked if she had a bulb that was white. She pulled out another bulb enclosed in a small box. I knew this light bulb. I had them in my house. Frosted glass, regular base, but odd shaped and small.

Yes, I told her, that’s what I want but do you have it in this shape? I pointed to the first bulb. She gave me a questioning look. “Do you want white light or yellow light?”

OK, that is the question that I still don’t get, having heard it since the day I arrived. White light/yellow light? The bulbs are not /were not coloured lights. After the first few times of asking what I preferred, (in response to my request for replacing fluorescents), I just rolled with it and said White light. But now that I was in the light store, I figured I’d try to clarify it. I don’t understand the difference, I told her.

She took the bulbs and turned to a testing panel on a shelf behind the counter. About this time, another woman popped up from behind the counter, yawing, stretching, and patting down her hair. At the time, it really didn’t register that she had also been in siesta mode. I was too involved in the lighting demonstration.

The normal, (to us), clear light bulb and the squat one were screwed in and switched on. She indicated the smaller bulb, saying it was yellow light, the other, white light. They both looked white to me. Not wanting to look like a complete idiot, I nodded my head and said, I see. She unscrewed the bulbs and handed them to me.

I then asked about wattage. Do you have 100 watts? She gave me a look of total confusion. Maybe it was a language thing. I pointed to the box, where it said 60, and said 100. I pointed to the small bulb, which was 40 watts and asked for 60. No luck. I further took a stab at asking about three-way bulbs and this woman, I am sure, was convinced I was whacked. I ended up with a couple of each style. She began to write out the bill, just as a young man sprang up from behind the counter on her right.

This time I almost jumped. I was quite embarrassed – I mean here I had been talking and asking questions, and this guy had been sleeping. I tried to say I was sorry, but I guess it didn’t matter.

Still not ready to go back to the crib, I went to a little deli/café that I had not previously been to. It has two, outside tables, so suited my requirements. There wasn’t a soul on the street. I went in to order and the place was empty. Or so I thought. From the back of the small café, a young woman slowly rose and greeted me. Again, I thought I should leave and felt bad about interrupting her rest.

But I stayed, and wondered why the hell I had thought sitting outside in the heat, after being out in it for quite a while, would be refreshing. I gulped my ice tea, went home, and jumped in the shower.

We’ll see how many of me it takes to change these light bulbs.