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White House staffers not the only people baffled by light switches

The recent New York Times story about how aides in the White House confer in the dark because they don’t know how to operate the light switches in the cabinet room got us talking.

No, not about politics. Rather, about how many of us are baffled by some of the light switches in our own homes.

Confessed one on Facebook: “I have lived in the same house for 31 years and still don’t know what one light switch controls.”

And another: “There are two switches in my house I have no idea what they control. Every time I flip one I envision my next door neighbor curiously watching as his porch light is going on and off ...”

Talk about being left in the dark.

What’s wrong with these people? I wondered. I can’t think of a single mysterious light switch in our home. When pressed further, however, a few realities came to light.

First of all, let me explain the reason our porch lights go on many winter mornings before dawn. You see, there is a double switch plate by our front door – and that is the problem. One little lever operates the porch light. The other the foyer light. My intention is to turn on the overhead light in the foyer on my way upstairs to avoid tripping over the dog – or my own two feet.

Most mornings, I get it wrong and turn on the porch light.

The foyer light can also be turned on and off from the upstairs hallway, which has another double switch plate. It’s from here you can also turn on the recessed lights in the hallway outside the bedrooms. Most times, when everyone else is asleep, I turn on the bright hallway lights by mistake. Good morning!

What I never do is forget to turn on the outdoor lights at dusk and, unless everyone is not yet home, turn them off before bed. In addition to porch lights, we also have outside lights on our garage, which is attached to our house. Often, and increasingly so, the last person to arrive home is our daughter. She always remembers to turn off the porch lights. But the garage lights? Rarely.

Eventually, she may remember. Even make a habit of it. That’s what happened years ago to me with our basement lights. I never exit the basement without hitting the switch at the top of the stairs to turn off the lights below. It’s automatic. I don’t even think about it.

As a result, I have interrupted laundry sortings, workbench projects and ping pong games by turning off the basement lights when people are still down there. So sorry.

As a further apology, I’ll try not to wake anyone up with the hallway light in the morning.

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