Cozy Tales: 44. Not so Bright

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As you might have guessed by now, I’m a bit of a nerd. I like gadgets and have way too many hobbies. I play the guitar, have a ham radio license, build my own computers, fix old tube amplifiers for fun and generally baffle my wife with an endless desire to acquire some new toy or learn some arcane skill. My interests have led me to amass a wide ranging collection which includes guitars, tube amplifiers, fountain pens, headphones, cameras, telescopes and a wide variety of other things. Of course, some of those hobbies get me into trouble.

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My garage looks like a Fortune-500 company’s computer room. Lots of computer geeks say that, but how many of them have a 19’ telecom rack properly mounted and grounded? I’ve even got dedicated dual power feeds, though active cooling is admittedly a concern. Various routers, switches, and servers running Solaris, Ubuntu Linux, CentOS, VoIP, web servers and a pile of other stuff all do their things in the comfort of my garage. My girls each have their own computers, and we all have macs, PCs, iPhones and older stuff I can’t bear to throw out. To be fair, this is what I have done for a living for over 25 years, and I’ve written books on the subject, so at least this obsession has some financial backing.

While many of my hobbies might not seem unusual, I have some that many people might find downright odd. For example, I am fascinated by flashlights. I have one of the flashlights that they mount on fire trucks mounted to the wall in my garage. My wife made fun of me at first until she realized that it would light half the house for eight hours straight during a power failure.

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I’ve used this light to illuminate raccoons high in the trees after being chased there by the dogs. Fox Mulder, UFO hunter and X-File conspiracy theorist extraordinaire would have been jealous of my light. The only drawback to this light is that it’s large and heavy since it uses a lead acid battery similar in principle to the ones used to start cars. Well, motorcycles to be accurate, but the point is that it’s bigger and heavier than your average flashlight.

One of my favorite brands of flashlights is SureFire because they make flashlights used by elite military units. They’re tough as nails, expensive as hell, and brighter than you would believe possible. These lights are so bright in part because they use special lithium batteries that cost about five bucks a piece. A two-battery SureFire light like the one I keep in my pocket is designed to be so bright that it will temporarily blind an attacker, which, if the dufus in the mirror who is my test subject is any measure, is a task it accomplishes most handsomely. This is the same flashlight that I used to examine Daisy when she was bleeding on the stairs. By comparison, the flashlight I bought to put next to my bed holds six of these batteries and is more than three times as bright.

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The SureFire M6 Guardian is so bright that when turned it on it will burn out $30 worth of batteries in 20 minutes. It comes with two bulbs – a kill your batteries in 20 minutes bulb, and the economical but less bright 120 minute version. Needless to say, real men use the brighter bulb. The light from this flashlight is a weapon in its own right, and is brighter than that produced by my enormous fireman’s flashlight. The price of this bit of technology? Over $300.

Lauren, who cares not for the ways of idiot men and their toys, would routinely use this flashlight to look under the couch for kid’s toys, or to look in the closet for shoes. I often tried to explain to her that this light was reserved for extreme emergencies. For example, if a hoard of zombies were to start clawing at the door and she needed to look under the bed for the loose shotgun shells that had fallen from her trembling hands, the M6 would be the light to grab. I pleaded my case with Lauren that certainly a lesser flashlight would serve the more mundane purposes for which she required a light, and even bought her many a light of her own. Those other lights would routinely get lost while my super-light was always by the bed, you know, because it was reserved for zombie invasions. As with most of my very important concerns of this nature, the request to leave my light alone fell on deaf ears.

One night after digging my light out of the closet (gotta find those shoes!) and making sure my light had fresh batteries in it, I drifted off to sleep, safe in the knowledge that any invading zombie hoards would be blinded by my M6 holy avenger. This night was like most nights where we live in that it was very quiet. My sleep was usually disrupted only by snoring, and my Cozy was a champion in the snoring arena, so I often had to wake up and move her until she stopped the infernal noise. Some nights I’d just give up and sleep downstairs, which was great until Cozy realized I was gone and came down to sleep with me. Apparently, to a Newfoundland snoring equals love.

This night was pretty unusual, as I was blessed with a complete lack of snoring. We lived in the woods, and sometimes we would hear critters doing their critterly dealings at all hours of the night. Baby raccoons were especially raucous.

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When we first moved into the house my wife and I argued about going into the woods to see what the racket was, both of us wondering if there was a small child being murdered. I finally went out with my fireman’s flashlight to discover two baby raccoons fighting in a tree. The worst horrifying scream you’ve ever heard does not compare with the sounds made by baby raccoons that have been treed. This night though, all was still and my sleep was sound. For a while, anyway.

In the middle of my blissful sleep, Cozy sat bolt upright and barked. Now, having lived with dogs for a few years, we had learned that they had a variety of different barks. There’s the play with me bark, the feed me bark, the look – another dog bark, and the hopefully rarely heard we are in real danger! bark. I’d only heard this last bark from Cozy once or twice, and when she used it, we paid attention. This bark was different than all of those. The bark that disrupted my sleep this night was the zombies are IN THE HOUSE! Get the gun and save the children while I hold them off! bark.

It was go time!

I lurched up in bed, grabbed my trusty M6 in the dark, and pushed the button to fire up the light at which point the reflection from the utterly non-reflective brown closet doors was so bright that it not only blinded me, it caused my physical pain. That’s when I screamed like a little girl, dropping the light onto the bed while I grabbed for the smoldering craters where my eyes had been, in the process further knocking three hundred dollars worth of military-grade anodized aluminum death-by-illumination to the floor. Now Cozy was barking, there were probably zombies in the house, I had been completely blinded, and perhaps worst of all, it was still dark.

At the sound of my girlish scream, Cozy came out of her vision and stood up, now barking because of my cry of pain. I threw back the covers, put my foot on the floor and immediately found the flashlight, which rolled under my foot, throwing me to the floor. Finally, the barking stopped and I was being attended to by a huge wet sloppy tongue, the application of which indicating that the invasion had ended as quickly as it had begun. There was no hoard of shambling undead in the house, no enemy at the gates, and no reason to panic. Cozy it seemed, had had a bad dream.

Luckily, Lauren had slept through the whole invasion and subsequent girlish screams. Being thrust from sleep directly to zombie-fighting status had awakened my brain up pretty quickly, and since there was no way I was going to sleep any time soon, I went downstairs and swapped the bulbs in my super light. Having lived through one zombie attack, I had learned that the lesser bulb was good enough, contrary to my default masculine sensibilities.

After I replaced the light on my nightstand, Cozy followed me back downstairs where I tried to calm my nerves in front of the television. She sat with her head in my lap while I scritched her ears with one hand and flipped through the channels with the other, hunting for a good zombie movie.

 

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