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20 November 2004 @ 10:26 pm
So you want to install a chandelier! (Homeowner Adventures Vol. 1)  
So you've decided to replace the chandelier in your kitchen. An excellent decision!

Replacing a chandelier is very similar to replacing any lighting fixture. Well, vaguely similar. Well, it's related.

Oh, nothing.

First you'll have to choose a fixture. Visit your local Lowe's store. They have a wide array of fixtures to enhance your home! Of course, most of them are homely at best. One of the whimsical ones is actually cute, but it wouldn't give useful lighting and accepts only special lights. There are a few reasonably ordinary fixtures in a nice nickel finish, but only a couple of those will accept "medium" bulbs. Since you're a responsible homeowner hoping to convert all your fixtures to compact fluorescents, you'll have to restrict yourself to these.

Sorting through all of the displays will take you some time because of the several-story ladder that is being moved around the aisle as the boxed fixtures are ... moved around for some reason, their numbers being called out to a staffer on the ground who repeats the numbers twice, goes over to the computer, comes back, and asks what that number was again. Be careful -- to keep prices low, the store maintains a warehouse environment. The required circling around the aisles is therefore for your convenience.

Identify the one acceptable chandelier fixture. Go get a compact fluorescent light bulb to make sure that the light wells are deep enough that the bulbs won't stick out and look silly. Consider the bulb in your hand, the fixture several feet above your head, and your utter lack of any ability at spacial estimation. Decide it looks as if it should be okay. Also locate two or three single fixtures for the other outlet box in the kitchen, since you're now suburban and your fixtures must not clash. Spend about fifteen minutes ensuring that you'll remember the designs and costs of these few items.

Now visit your local Home Depot. They have an even wider array! Notice immediately that one fixture seems to be identical to one you saw at Lowe's, only Home Depot wants ten dollars more. Or ... eight dollars? What did that one cost again?

You'll soon find that, like those at Lowe's, most of the fixtures here are not to your liking. However, that still leaves about six that seem nice enough or that would coordinate with the ones you picked at Lowe's. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be one that would do both. Try to find one that's closest to the chandelier fixture you saw at Lowe's. Admit after about ten minutes that you have no idea what that one looked like or what it cost.

After a while you'll focus on two similar fixtures. Both would appear to work perfectly. Each has an element you really like, and each has an element you could really live without. This is a critical decision -- don't rush it! Take your time. Even sit down on the floor to consider the side-by-side boxes. Ignore the stares of passing customers -- you have an important decision in your hands! Ordinarily you would ask your roommate, but she's out of town, so you have no option. You must choose.

Ah, you've made your decision! And a good one it is: the one that comes in a bigger box. Now you just have to lug it up to the front so that you can pay for it. You may need to spend another ten minutes standing in the rain and rearranging your car to fit your new purchase, but it's worth it!

Now for the fun part: the actual installation! Are you ready?

First feed the cats to get them out from underfoot. They're overdue anyway, so they should be nice and eager. After calling for several seconds, go upstairs to get the female, who is ignoring you. You need to go upstairs anyway for a light and the ladder. Of course, you can't bring those down with the cat, but it's good exercise.

Go downstairs to shut off the breaker to the kitchen lights and confirm that the lights actually remain off when you turn the switch. You don't want to hurt yourself!

The chandelier is over the table, so to use the ladder you would have to move the table. Of course, you only need an extra few inches to reach, so maybe you can just stand on the chair and lean over. That can't be too risky. And you've had trouble moving the table alone before, so surely it's better to leave it than to risk anything by trying to move it.

Consider the old chandelier for a few minutes. Note that it is shaking from the bass of the music you have playing upstairs. Decide that the instructions for the new chandelier might clue you in to how to remove the old one.

Go back upstairs to get the light so that you can see what you're doing.

Unpack the chandelier. To keep your interest, it has been packed in a very peculiar manner that really would be easier to work through with a second person. You're talented, though, so you can get it out yourself.

Avoid setting the parts on a cat. Tell both cats that the wires really aren't toys for them. Tell them again. In fact, decide the female cat actually needs to eat something before you close her food. Show her where her food is, since you moved it and eating it in the new location twice clearly wasn't enough to fix it in her head. Fail to get her interested in food. Close the food.

Sort through the parts to find the instructions. Skim through them. Glance at the back to see if it has something clearer. Discover the back has the same instructions en Espanol. Turn back to the front.

Climb up on the chair and start twisting part of the old chandelier. Discover that it unscrews pretty easily. Hasten to disconnect the wires because supporting the chandelier at this angle with one hand while unscrewing with the other is difficult. Fail to learn anything from this fact.

Set the old chandelier down on the floor of the living room, so that it will be out of the way. Fail to realize that you really ought to savor this sole shining moment of intelligence.

Really look at the new fixture next to the old one. Realize that the new one is much taller. Consider that this may be a problem. Note that the old one did not use the chain assembly, even though that model at the store has one. Consider whether it can be omitted from the new one. Decide to try that.

Pick up the new chandelier. Remind the cats that the wires are not toys for them.

Start to attach the brace. Put one foot on the glass-topped table. Promise yourself that's just for balance and you won't put any weight on it, because that would be dangerous and foolhardy and possibly quite expensive, if not bloody.

Curse the stiff grounding wire, which is constantly in the wrong place. Curse the stiff grounding wire because it refuses to attach to the building wire. Curse the plastic bit that's supposed to screw the two together but won't.

Find that this method isn't working, because you would have to hold the entire chandelier up at one time and screw it directly into the ceiling, and it's heavy, and you are really sore from raking, which is a whole other story. Figure it looks too high that way anyway, even though you know that technically the lights must be lower than they were on the old chandelier. Disconnect the wires. Set the assembly down on the floor. Tell the cats that the wires aren't toys for them.

Go back to the instructions. Try to sort out the instructions that aren't necessary because the parts are pre-assembled for you from the instructions that you need to follow. Have mixed success.

The instructions tell you to open a link on the chain. Try. Fail. Repeat. Repeat. Use two sets of pliers in a non-approved manner. Succeed.

Try to wind the cables around the six-foot chain, since you're going to have to find a way to shorten this assembly somehow.

Take everything over to the living room. Remind the cats that the wires are not toys for them. Attempt to braid the wires and the chain. Discover that the result is quite stupid, what with the very flexible chain and the impossibly stiff grounding wire. Try to untangle them. Tell the male cat that if he gets his eye poked out by the stiff grounding wire, it's his own fault because the wire is NOT A TOY FOR HIM.

Consider the too-long chain, the too-long wires, and the cramped utility box. Finally decide that you are just going to have to resign yourself to keeping it. Make it unreturnable by cutting the wires to what you figure is still too long, for safety. Also shorten the chain with your unapproved-but-functional method. Find that the links don't really close properly and the open links keep falling off.

Give the extra lengths of cable to the cats as toys.

Watch them regard the wires with a startled aspect and lose interest in less than a minute.

Take the assembly back to the kitchen. Use scissors to strip the wires, even though you know better. Notice the clipped wires resulting from this method. Pull at the plastic for a while to try to expose them a little better. Resort to using the scissors anyway for the other one.

Discover that you can't really reach well enough to handle the wires and support the assembly. Stand on the table, asking it kindly to support you, and carefully putting your weight over two legs. Find to your surprise that it seems able to support you.

Connect the wires. Curse the grounding wire for continuing to be annoying.

Then find that you were supposed to thread them through another piece first. Disconnect them. Move back slightly. Yell very loudly at yourself for stepping to the edge of a round, center-supported, glass-topped table and very nearly tipping yourself off into disaster and possibly onto a cat.

Get down. Thread the wires through. Curse the grounding wire for being so stiff that every manipulation has left it kinked, so that it won't go through. Force it through anyway. End up pushing a plastic bit out of the threaded bolt. Lose the plastic bit immedately. Give up trying to find it after five minutes. Finish threading the wires.

Go upstairs to get the ladder. Tell the female cat that she had her chance, that she's not eating for at LEAST another two hours, and that the food isn't over there any more anyway.

Discover that the ladder next to the table really isn't any more useful than the chair was.

Connect the wires. Attempt to screw the threaded bolt to the mount. Fail.

Lower the assembly. Consider. Have a bad moment in which it seems the bolt won't be long enough. Identify a method that should work, whether or not it's supposed to. Rework the bits with that method so that you have enough of a bolt. Tell the female cat to shut up, she's not getting food.

Discover that you were also supposed to thread the wires through the mount. Disconnect the wires. Thread them back through the mount. Reconnect them.

Lift the assembly yet again. Find that the wires are in the way. Try to pack them into the box. Fail. Try again. Fail. Set the assembly down because of pain.

Have an idea. Get down from the ladder to get the chandelier box. Set it on the table so that the assembly can rest on it. Remove the various items that are now under the box, since you couldn't be bothered to move them first.

Climb back up. Try to pack the wires. Discover that the assembly still hangs too far down for ease. Get down from the ladder. Tell the female cat she doesn't get to eat yet. Get the pile of books that once supported the pumpkin. Set them on top of the box and rest the assembly on that. Congratulate yourself on your cleverness.

Climb back onto the ladder. Try to pack the wires. Lean forward slightly, brushing the box, and hear a crash. Look down to find your lunch plate on the floor, mysteriously whole despite being made of blue glass, but festooned with mysterious clear glass shards. Determine after many seconds and a close-up inspection that the glass used to be a bowl. Note that the shards are covered with the egg salad that the bowl had been used to mix. Determine that's a pretty dumb way to avoid doing dishes.

Pick up the nearest three bits of broken glass. Leave the rest for later.

Go back up. Fight the wires in. When they're finally close, try to screw the assembly in. Try four more times to line it up correctly. Get the alignment right and discover that screwing it in will mean twisting the wires, and they're resisting. Take the assembly back down and introduce a counter-twist, which it also resists. Curse the stiff grounding wire for being the primary problem.

Screw the fixture into the ceiling. Feel it tighten in a very short time. Wonder whether it will actually stay up or come crashing down. Fail to care.

Get back down to take out one of the glass bulb mounts. Tell the female she doesn't get food and she should stay AWAY FROM THE BROKEN GLASS. Realize that you probably weren't that far from kneeling in the glass yourself.

Put the glass mount onto the fixture. Take it back down, unscrew a piece, put it back on, and screw it down. Note the fixture listing badly. Get another piece of glass to balance it.

Go back upstairs for a bulb. Try to avoid touching the glass with the who-knows-what on your hands. Reassure the female cat that you aren't sneaking out to Canada to avoid feeding her.

Bring the bulb down. Screw it in, finding that you have no option but to handle the glass extensively with the who-knows-what on your hands.

Go downstairs and switch on the breaker. Wonder if the house will now catch fire to spite you. Head back upstairs, reassuring the female cat that you aren't sneaking out to Peru to avoid feeding her.

Turn on the light switch. Note that the light goes on with no complaints. Decide to take a break to enjoy your effective success before you clean up the bits and wires and boxes and packaging and broken glass.

Sitting on the couch, glance over at the fixture and realize that the bulb sticks up well out of the glass mount. Congratulations on your careful choice!