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  • John Fiorella

LAMPS TO THE FUTURE

Updated: Mar 1, 2019



In 2004, when I wasn’t pitching multimillion dollar movie ideas to studio executives, I was working at Lamps Plus, as a sales rep. It was a bleak experience that drove me to the edge of insanity, with my days spent walking the showroom floor and answering the same question over and over again, that being:


“How bright is this lamp?”

GAHHHH! I would hear those words at least six-hundred times a day - and that’s not hyperbole. Why would that question be asked so frequently? Well, according to the Bureau of Labor & Statistics, the average age of the Lamps Plus customer is 109. From the minute the front doors would open, a congregation of grandmotherly vampires would creep into the showroom and cast a dark, slow moving shadow that smelled of taffy and polyester.


“How bright is this lamp?” they would ask. To which I would answer, “150 watts.” “Ohhhhhhhh...” they would whisper, as if I had just confided in them with the truth behind who shot JFK. From there began the in depth product analysis. My head felt like it was on a swivel as I would nod respectfully and listen as they critiqued the lamp's numerous flaws. Many minutes later, the question would come again…


“How bright is this lamp?”


I restated the answer, “150 watts” - and at this stage, it would get personal. It didn’t matter if it was a sconce or torchiere, these light fixtures would inevitably remind them of a story that had to be shared and conveyed in painstaking detail. Beatrice was nine when they put her in the iron lung, Florence married three different Postmen, and Vivian learned how to explore her special parts behind the curtains of her Aunt Hazel’s study. Sometimes they cried, sometimes we hugged, and sometimes I fought the urge to kill the main breaker and run out of the store screaming.


“How bright is this lamp, did you say?”


“150 watts,” I’d reply once again, at which point their face would pucker, they'd turn toward a different lamp, AND THE PROCESS WOULD REPEAT!



Six months into the job, I cracked. I was in the break room, trying to rifle down a tuna sandwich as two sales reps got into a heated debate. This was a daily occurrence and routinely boiled into a shouting match in two different languages – during which, you could hear the sound of glass shattering as the stock boys played an afternoon round of “light bulb toss.”


I let out a long sigh and looked to the heavens for a ray of hope. Instead, I saw a fuzzy image of Christopher Lloyd on the break room TV. He was screaming at Michael J. Fox in Spanish… and something clicked. From that moment on, whenever anyone asked me, “How bright is this lamp?” I vowed to answer…


“1.21 gigawatts.”


And I did this for six full months. It was like some sort of sedative that kept the monotonous daily grind from consuming me – that is, until the loud speaker called for me by name. “John F to the main office, please. John F to the main office.” Oh boy.

When I got to the main office, the store manager was sitting behind his desk with his arms folded. He was a giant of a man, with overly-manicured facial hair, and he wasn’t pleased. “Sit,” he grunted before locking his fingers in front of his face like a cartoon villain. “I overheard two women in the showroom,” he snarled. “They were talking about how a standard stick lamp puts out 1.21 GIGAWATTS.” A long silence followed...



After what felt like an eternity, he sat back in his chair and exclaimed, “That is an ENORMOUS amount of light!” To my surprise, he wasn’t familiar with the sci-fi classic Back To The Future. In fact, what followed was a twenty minute tutorial on how to measure energy. I swallowed back the urge to crack a joke about the Flux Capacitor, thanked him for the information, and returned to roaming the showroom - only to get approached by a spry 103 year-old patron and asked...


“How bright is this lamp?”