Simple home repair turns out not so simple


How many engineers does it take to change a light bulb? Three; one to hold the bulb, two to turn the ladder. You have heard some version of the old joke, poking fun at engineers, rednecks or any other handy minority.

Recently, I found myself starring in a similar “how long does it take for a homeowner to repair a kitchen light?” situation, and it was no joke.

I had installed the attractive ceiling fixture myself, years ago, and it had served without interruption since. It is a glass globe about 14 inches in diameter, fit like a bowl, upright, into a polished metal ring. The bulbs, three of them, are inside, accessible only if the bowl is removed.

More than a week ago, I was made aware of a problem: “You gotta fix that light; I can’t see how to cook.”

“No problem,” I responded, figuring to delay the job until I could locate the little step-stool that I was certain was in a closet somewhere. After all, there were two other kitchen light fixtures, one above the sink and another built into the stove hood. And that did not count the refrigerator light or the one in the oven.

In less than a week, the step-stool was in place beneath the ceiling light, and from the second step, I could reach the fixture and get to work.

There were no visible fasteners, but the concept was simple enough.  Like that jar of blueberry jam that came home as a souvenir from our last trip to the mountains, the translucent glass bowl screwed into the metal ring like the glass jar screwed into the metal lid.

The only difference was size. The jar was maybe three inches in diameter, the light bowl, closer to 14. The surface of the bowl was smooth, and turning it was a matter of natural friction. In several tries, over several days, barehanded, gloved in non-skid rubber, and using whatever else came to hand, the bowl did not move.

It was like the jam jar was stuck in its lid, requiring one of those kitchen drawer tools that grips the lid to the point of bending it, to separate it from the jar.

I had no similar tool to attack the light fixture problem. Frustrated, I dug out a claw hammer, and wondered how I could collect the splinters if it came to breaking the fixture to fix it. I delayed that destructive measure, praying for a miracle; the cook continued to make toast in the “dark.”

Finally, I turned to the natural solution: Duct tape. I applied it generously to the slick surface of the glass bowl, hoping that appropriate tugs would loosen the screwed in fastening.

It didn’t. It was back to the drawing board and more over-cooked toast.

When I taped a block of wood to the glass and used the hammer to tap it gently, the reluctant bowl slowly unscrewed, revealing the three dead light bulbs. Their brand new replacements now supply ample illumination for the cook. The final step before I put the stool away is to screw the bowl back to its base. Why not? The new bulbs should last for several years.

But COVID-19 should have been done and gone by now… Maybe after the election?

Market news: The alleged “cold front” that brought hints of tolerable weather this week also brought an email announcement from Dao Tran, the chief cook in the familiar MyFoods Vietnamese fast food booth: “Hello everyone! Fall is coming and MyFoods will be preparing for 3 different Farmer’s markets this season.

“First the DOWNTOWN HOUMA MARKET on Tuesdays from 3 to 5 p.m.; The RIENZI Market (Thibodaux) will start soon on Thursdays from 3 to 6 p.m. Then the  LAFOURCHE CENTRAL MARKET (Raceland) every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Come to visit Us and support Local vendors, We hope to see all of you this fall. Thank you.”

The cool fall weather should also bring back local vegetable produce to the markets soon.

Plan to vote: The big presidential election in November will have long, complicated ballots, including a gang of national and local candidates, plus seven proposed amendments to the Louisiana Constitution and a few local tax propositions. To see your own ballot, visit, and the Louisiana Public Affairs Research Council site for evaluations of the proposed constitutional amendments. Make a personal “cheat sheet” to speed your time in the booth.

Responding? Contact Bill Ellzey at 381-6256, at,, or c/o The Courier, P.O. Box 2717, Houma, LA 70361.

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