The other morning, just as my wife, Annette, was leaving the house, she re-opened the front door and asked me to do a small favor:




"Please change the bulb in the stairwell. It went out last night."




Eager to please and smart enough to take a small straw off the camel's back, I saved the article I was writing and surveilled the area in question. I was still dressed in a nightshirt and slippers, as I had been punishing the keyboard since the middle of the night, which is when good ideas of any age drop by and visit.




I quickly changed into sweats and tennis shoes, then swaggered back to a task that, given my vast experience in such matters, would take but a few minutes, assuming no interruptions.




The most straightforward way to reach the light fixture was to climb up the stairs a little, then simply reach over the side rail a bit. But first I had to clear away some items that were on steps that were destined for upstairs. There were files, newspaper clippings, receipts, a couple of wireless routers, a couple of books and three baskets full of odds and ends. No problem.




I took up my first armload and proceeded to place each item near others like it. Most everything upstairs is in see-through plastic containers, which would have sped up the process, were it not for the fact that the containers were stacked one atop the other.




I immediately broke the first rule of chores: Do not become distracted, then engrossed in this sorting process. My first item was to place two old pictures in a scrapbook that began construction 25 years ago. I tried to resist it. I used sheer willpower to divert my eyes and mind from the long-hidden photos, but, ultimately lost my concentration and began flipping though the pages, living anew those moments frozen in time. Before I knew it two hours had passed.




As I went downstairs to clutch another load I heard my cell phone ringing. In a purely Pavlovian response, I fluttered down the stairs and began to home in on the cell. Then the ringing stopped and I went into manual mode, searching coat pockets, flat surfaces, under pillows. In only a few short minutes I located the phone. It indicated that a call came in from a number of which I knew naught, so I googled the number and came up with nothing.




Just as I finished shrugging my shoulders the phone beeped and indicated that I had a new voice message. I managed to hit the right button and was informed that I had 22 new messages. Grabbing a blank envelope and a pen I began to listen through them to hear whose call I had just missed. Each message was more complex and undecipherable than the previous. I jotted down what I could hear, then saved the message for another visit.




A dental appointment had been rescheduled, but it went dead before I could find out when. I got three calls in a row for a person I do not know. I was reminded of a writing deadline for a magazine that sounded like "shmumble world." I got invited to a gathering that took place last week. My insurance company declined to leave a message other than it was extremely important that I contact them immediately. A couple of friends asked me to call them back and, lastly, Annette asked me how the light bulb change was coming along.




Focused once again, I got a chair to reach the fixture, instead of taking another arm-load of distractions upstairs. Like a successful endodontist, I successfully extracted the dead bulb only to realize that I had run out of mini-fluorescents, which mandated a quick trip to the hardware store. You will never guess who I met there or how interesting our conversation was.




I finally got home and found Annette looking blanking at the light fixture. She finally spoke and said it all: "Brilliant, just brilliant."




Lance was last seen carting armloads of memories upstairs, where he still sits and sifts. You may break his trance by switching onto lance@journalist.com.