My apartment has halogen track lights illuminating much of the place. They are tricky to change and the bulbs are special ones that you can only get at hardware stores, so I can’t pick them up at a drug store on lunch hour. It was getting dark in the apartment since the hardware store is typically closed by the time I get home. So it seemed like a good job for Doran.
That Monday I left him a note and money, asking him to go to a hardware store and buy halogen bulbs and replace the burned out ones. It's maybe two hours work altogether, with the shopping and the changing bulbs. On Monday, he didn’t get to the hardware store in time. Tuesday, ditto. Wednesday he actually did buy the bulbs, but left them at 11th Street - our coop apartment, where my ex lives while we figure out what to do with it (which has been going on for 6 years now, but that’s another story) - thinking he'd sleep there. Then he went to visit a friend, came home late (to my place – he hasn’t been at 11th Street much since getting back from the Marines) and didn’t have the bulbs.
On Thursday morning he told me he’d definitely do the job that day – go to 11th Street, get the bulbs, change them. At 4:15 on Thursday he called me at work to apologize. He did go to 11th Street and get the light bulbs he'd bought, but they are the wrong kind. I had given him a burnt out one to take to the hardware store as a sample. What did he do with that? "I threw it out because I was sure I knew what they looked like."
I told him to go back to the hardware store with another burnt out one. He'd already thought of this but couldn't because he couldn't figure out how to get the old ones out of the track lights. Need I mention that I asked him if he knew how to change them (since they are tricky) and he said that of course he does?
Sooo, I told him where I keep the burnt out sample light bulbs (always have another in case of such circumstances) and told him this time he needs to really take it with him to the hardware store. Now. And when I get home I will show him how to change them.
I ended by saying "Are we agreed that it is your responsibility to follow through on this until it is done?" and he said "yes."
He went to the hardware store where he had gotten the wrong ones, and they didn't have any of the right ones, so he called me up to ask where another hardware store was. I showed great restraint and just told him, not pointing out that my note with the instructions on what to do gave names and addresses for two hardware stores. I just told him where the other one was, and said I'd explain how to change them when I got home.
When I got home he was there, the light bulbs were there, the ladder was positioned under a burnt out bulb. He told me that he'd asked a few friends to come over and help him and had planned on surprising me with having it done, but they weren't here yet and he still couldn't figure out how to change them. So, following our family's motto, I stood with him underneath the track lights, pointed out salient features of said lighting fixtures and taught him to fish... burnt out bulbs out of their sockets and replace them with new ones. With only one minor exhortation ("Doran! Turn off the light first!") he did the first one.
He moved the ladder to the next one, got up on it and his cell phone rang. And with me standing there in the same room he says into it, "No man. I don't need you to come over after all. I figured it out."
I said, "What?!!!? Correct that - right now."
He said into the phone, "Umm, actually my mom taught me how. She just called me out on that."
Changing the rest of the light bulbs was the work of a few minutes. He kissed me when he was done and asked, "Are we good now?"
So, how many 18-year-old boys does it take to change a light bulb?
P.S. I mostly find this funny, but when I think back to my 18-year-old self I’m kind of appalled at the comparison and worry that he’ll just never grow up. So it was reassuring when I told this story to a friend of mine – a perfectly functional middle-aged woman with a PhD, a good job, and a family. She said that when she was 18 she would have behaved just like Doran in every particular, except... she would have lied to her mother and said she lost the sample bulb rather than admit having thrown it out.