Monday, March 08, 2010

Burned-Out American Bulbs

    My wife and I built our kids from scratch. We started with the basic supplies, followed the time-honored blueprint and, after a period of incubation, manufactured three wiggly autonomous machines capable of intaking fuel in huge amounts and converting it directly into poop and frustration.
    We built these machines but we cannot program them.
    This weekend, for instance, I went into my sons' room. My 10 year-old son Gabriel sat on his bed playing a Nintendo DS game.
    "Gabriel," I said clearly. "Put down the video and clean your room. Breakfast will be ready in 10 minutes and I want your room to be clean by then."
    He gave me a look which, in retrospect, was very reminiscent of the hourglass I used to get whenever I started a Windows 95 program. I went back to scrambling eggs for breakfast. Ten minutes later, I walked back into the room and both Gabriel and his seven year-old brother were watching television. No work had been done. I decided to try another programming language.
    I yelled.
    Both boys jumped to their feet and started milling around their beds. They weren't actually picking anything up, but were confusedly making paths around the room, approximating the work of cleaning up. They looked like Roomba vacuum cleaners with broken sensors. I left them and went to eat my cold eggs.
    A few minutes later, Gabriel walked up to me. He had a light bulb in his hand.
    "Dad, what am I supposed to do with this burned-out light bulb?"
    I stared at him for a moment. I considered legitimately answering his question, but I was no longer positive that clear English was the solution to our dilemma.
    "Send it the Smithsonian Institute for their collection of burned-out American light bulbs."
    He gave me a suspicious look.
    "The Smithsonian has a collection of burned-out light bulbs?"
    "Nope," I answered. "They just throw them away."
    And then I walked away without waiting for his epiphany. When I imagine it now, I like to think the light bulb came on in his hand.