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Illuminating thoughts to lighten things

If you happen to notice more people walking around these days with white canes, seeing eye dogs and dark glasses, don’t be alarmed. It’s just because the days are now shorter and head lamp season is here.

This was pointed out to me by one of the friendly people behind the post office counter the other day.  And somewhere in the conversation, it was noted that thing never used to be this bad.

This is true, and I blame technology.

You see, long ago outdoorsmen, who were caught in the woods after dark in autumn, simply stumbled along hoping that their night vision was correct when they assumed that bear like object was merely a large, growling stump.

Luckily, those who survived that era eventually developed the torch. This was fine until they developed the papyrus map with fine print in order to find their way home.

Years, later, and much to the chagrin of those who sold maps, someone developed the candle, which worked like a charm on calm nights unless someone in the party had gas.

Luckily, technology moved forward and the lantern was invented. This allowed light on windy nights and was just the ticket, although holding one made you very susceptible to being tickled.

As far as I can tell, this alone provided the impetus to invent the first flashlight – a tool first marketed as the one-handed auto-blinder. With a flashlight, an outdoorsman could lead an expedition through the darkest wilderness with hardly any loss of life. And survival rates got even better once someone invented spare batteries.

Over the years, flashlights got progressively better. Eventually they could be purchased with five million candlelight power, which is why people in a flashlight carrier’s party never asked that person a question again.

For asking a question would cause the flashlight holder to turn the light directly into your eyes and say, “Did you say something?”

The answer might as well have been, “Do you know anyone who sells seeing eye dogs?

You’d think this would have been the height of nighttime illumination but, because we are humans, we could not leave well enough alone.

We had to bring the headlamp into the mainstream. Formerly, the headlamp was strictly used by miners to blind other miners.  But it worked so well in the mines that someone said, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a very bright, devastatingly blinding light mounted on your forehead whose piercing beam lit up everywhere you looked?”

The answer of, course is yes, provided that you are the only one wearing it.

Sadly, everyone wears them now. Again, this is fine so long as everyone is looking in the same direction. But, as people, we cannot help but look each other in the eyes every minute or two.  This is especially true when we are walking in the woods on a pitch dark night and we hear a strange noise.

The good news is that a modern headlamp allows everyone to have two hands-free, so they can shield their eyes or feel their way home after they have been blinded.

On the plus side, they are lightweight, very bright and get longer battery life or are even rechargeable. I use them and can honestly say they are quite a step up from flashlights.

Yet, I still cannot help but think it would have been easier if we just stuck with torches and developed fire-retardant maps.

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