OPINION | GARY SMITH: Shedding some light on the correct direction of light switches

Nightly light fixation may seem a little off base

As far as I can tell, the root of one of our biggest problems is that we believe human beings act in reasonable, defendable, understandable ways and that, while we may not necessarily agree with the outcomes or methodology, we can all at least follow the logic.

People may rationalize terrible decisions. They may try to defend bad behavior or explain their actions. They may ascribe motivations or justifications that, in the cold light of day, bear little resemblance to reality. But they had a plan. It may have been an awful plan, but it was a plan, and we have to respect that.

However, on personal examination (some would call it navel-gazing, but perhaps they're being unkind or don't see the big picture), I've come to the conclusion that, in at least some instances, that might not be true.

Personal case in point: wall light switches.

For reasons I can't quite explain, one of the last things I do every night before bedtime is make sure all the lights are off and all the wall light switches are pointed down. I will even hunt down "incorrectly" aligned switches and go through the often laborious process of making sure the light they control is off and the switch is pointed down.

And since lights are often controlled by more than one switch at more than one location, well, it's not a simple task.

I'd like to say I do this because it provides some benefit, makes determining if the lights are off easier (one would presume that general darkness would be your first indication, but...) or makes it easier for loved ones to switch lights on or off.

I'd like to say that, but it really wouldn't be true. Because there really isn't a good reason to go bouncing around the house, flipping switches so they're all facing in the "correct" direction. I just ... do it.

You'd think I could get away with that. I mean, it's not like I end the day by announcing "I'm going to waste time flipping all the light switches down now." And I'm usually the last person up, so you wouldn't think anyone else would be the wiser. However, apparently, my interest in wall switch organizational management has caught the eye of the Lovely Mrs. Smith. And that has led to one of those "what are you doing?" conversations that usually surface during air guitar sessions or touchdown celebrations. Or dancing in general.

A note: You can usually tell how long a couple has been married by the amount of time the ask-ee of that question takes to respond to the asker. And how the asker replies. For example:

"What are you doing?"

"I'm flipping all the light switches so they'll all be pointed down when the lights are off. I have no reason for it. I'm just doing it."


After a while, there doesn't need to be an explanation and you don't really have to know there isn't one.

Of course my light switch obsession isn't my only or even oddest quirk. I have to line the opening on the lid of my metal tumblers up with the logo on the container, for instance. But I can at least try to justify that based on the contention that I often reach for the tumbler without looking and since I can feel the logo, it keeps me from slamming the lid into my teeth in a vain attempt to take a drink.

OK, it's not much, but it beats the "because" response that explains the whole light switch deal.

I'm not alone in this, of course. I'm sure the Lovely Mrs. Smith does something similar. However, since I'm far too polite to call any of it out (or, in reality far too unobservant to notice whatever it might be), I haven't said anything about whatever it is I haven't noticed anyway.

My father used to insist on turning off the radio and all the accessories in the car because shutting it down. He said starting the auto with anything on was bad for the battery. That might actually have been right, or it may have been his way of avoiding the sonic shock that occurred when someone broke into our car every time after I had driven it, didn't steal anything but turned the radio all the way up. There were sure some devious folks in our neighborhood in those days.

Maybe they're the ones messing with the light switches.

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