WHINGE

SWITCH

Of course, when I was a boy all this was fields.

Electromagnetic fields, to be precise.

Electromagnetic fields you could control.

With switches.

Switches, in my day, were brilliant. Take darkened rooms, for example. Back then, darkened rooms were a cinch. You would walk in (utilising simple technology dating back to the time of primitive cave-dwelling homo sapiens, whose wholesome desire for privacy and egress management inspired the invention of the door [1] and immediately notice a distinct shortfall in the quantum of illumination required for the purposes of, say, a single-session completion of a particularly knotty Choose Your Own Adventure, or few quick rounds of Hungry Hungry Hippos. [2]

An afternoon ruined, you might think. But you would be wrong. Hah! How does feel, Wrongy? Thought you knew everything, didn’t you? Well you don’t. The arrogance of you. You sicken me. [3]

What you forgot, of course, was the switch. Rooms, back then, had an almost miraculous device. A single, elegant, symmetrical switch, right on the wall, right next to the door, at perfect reaching height.

Imagine it. With a single click, a satisfactorily tactile toggle of a binary state, the raw power of a distant power station would be passed across the tungsten filament of a grateful, overhanging incandescent bulb to flood the room with a few quadrillion happy, bouncy little photons.

And away you would traipse in the direction of the Soda Stream or hula hoop collection, blithe and bonny, heedless of the wonderful cascade of cause and effect you had so effortlessly catalysed. Heedless because exceptional design, like the sneaky anchovy in the lamb stew, is intangible yet profoundly enriching. [4]

And then life changed.

Humanity, in its insatiable lust for the comely twin succubi of comfort and complexity, began to muddy even life’s simplest, near-perfect pleasures.

There were panels in colours other than cream or very-slightly-darker-than-cream. There were dimmer switches.

There were, curse their filthy souls to an eternity of cream or very-slightly-darker-than-cream hellfire, multiple panels controlling the same light in a room. Is up OFF or ON now? Up could easily be ON now. UP COULD EASILY BE ON NOW. It is as though the shady, untrustworthy quantum physics of the electron has tunnelled through the plaster to pervert the innocent, macro world of the switch.

And then, the final sneeze on the smörgåsbord potato salad. There were multi-switch panels.

A panel can now have more than one switch on it. Two or three are common. Some have as many as five. Five. And they let children near them.  I mean, honestly.

Any switch could do anything. Is this the hall light, the kitchen light or the other hall light? Which inexplicable combination of my many dozens of brazenly superfluous energy-saving halogen downlights does this switch set off? Why, when I flick the third switch in the spare bedroom, do I only hear a distant whir and a sound that cannot with certainly be said not to be screaming?

Why is there always a middle switch that does nothing? Look at it. I’m flipping it over and over right now, and nothing is happening. LOOK AT IT.

Which is a long way of saying, do you stock a laundry light switch that will infallibly prevent me from using the outside light as an alert to passing neighbours and low-flying air traffic that I am about to use the downstairs toilet?

Thank you and I look forward to shopping at Bunnings Northland in the near future.

MAT LARKIN (@MATCHTRICK), MELBOURNE

  1. And, relatively shortly after, the knob.
  2. Frogger was also an option. Rooms were versatile back then.
  3. I don’t mean that. Let’s never fight again. Come on, blow your nose. Bit more. Just get that … yeah, on your lip, too. There you go. Let’s hug it out. That had better be your belt buckle.
  4. And almost certainly fatal to the allergic.