The first house I ever owned was a little tract home with a yard the size of a piece of lunchmeat.
The long hallway was lit by two absolutely uninteresting overhead lights.
There was a light switch.
In the living room was pair of track-lights.
There was a light switch.
In between them was a light switch with two switches, one that controlled the hall lights and one that controlled the track lights.
Here is a schemata. (This is the technical term for silly drawings that want to seem more important than they are.)
Isn’t that impressive.
So there are two switches that control each sets of lights. Convenient, yes?
Switches A and B controlled the hall lights, from either switch. If light A was up, you could turn the hall lights off from switch B.
Switches C and D controlled the track lights, from either switch. If switch C was down, you could turn the lights on from switch D.
So convenient. Yes! Yay for modern wiring!
Until one of the light switches broke and needed to be replaced.
This should not be a big deal. It’s not like we were rewiring the switchboard for AT&T’s customer service line.
A light switch. One. Simple. Light switch.
We replaced the light switch. We turned off the breaker and followed the instructions.
Something went wrong. Horribly wrong.
Turning one switch up and the next switch down stopped turning off and on the light. A up B down no longer meant a light going on or off. C down D up no longer had anything to do with illumination in the living room.
Instead we ended up with this:
A up B down C up D down meant one light on and the other blinking morse code.
A down B up C down D up caused the garage door to open.
A up B up C down D up launched the space shuttle.
A down B down C up D down caused Donald Trump’s hair to eat the nearest journalist from Mother Jones.
A up B down C down D up made blue chips stocks on the Dow Jones dance the polka.
A down B up C up D down meant six more weeks of winter.
A down B down C down D up caused guacamole to turn black.
A up B up C up D down made 80′s pop groups to go on reunion tours.
A down B down C up D down caused a flock of migrating Canadian geese to become disoriented and poop all over our yard.
People would walk down the hallways and we would fling ourselves at them to keep them from flipping a light switch and potentially reversing the earth’s polarity, or, equally bad, causing reruns of “Who’s the Boss” to air on all available cable stations.
Having influence over the earth this way was just not as much fun as you’d think.
Nor, I must say, was walking down the hallway in the dark for fear of turning on a light switch.
I had lots of stubbed toes during that period of my life. But, it was for the best. I really hate black guacamole.