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Cheryl Hughes: Hold the Light

Several times during my life with Garey, I have been an electrician’s assistant, a carpenter’s assistant, a plumber’s assistant, and a mechanic’s assistant.  I dig through tool bags for the right screwdriver, pair of plyers, wrench or drill bit, while Garey is under a cabinet, under a sink, under a commode, under a backhoe or under a floor.  Mostly, however, I hold the light.

Electrical, plumbing, carpentry and mechanical jobs are pretty tedious and sometimes, even downright nerve wracking.  They take a lot of focus, which means, occasionally I have to be a mind reader or at least anticipate Garey’s next move.  He will stop what he’s doing, stare then look around.

“Phillips head?” I might ask, holding up the screwdriver.  “Wire cutters?”  “Pliers?” 

“Move to the other side of me,” he says.  “Now, come back around.”  “A little higher.”  These are all directives involving when, where and how to hold the light.  There are rules that govern how to hold the light.  I’ve taken note of them over the years.

Rule Number One:  Do not shine the light into the eyes of the person you are holding the light for.  They really hate that!  Garey’s response to this faux pas is the same every time.  “I can see my eyeballs,” he says, “shine it onto what I’m working on.”

Rule Number Two:  Do not drop the light onto the head of the person you are holding the light for.  That rule is not as imperative today, in the era of small high beam flashlights, as it was in the bygone days of large black police flashlights.  Still, it’s best not to do it if it can be helped.

Rule Number Three:  No distracting behavior.  Don’t chew gum and pop bubbles.  Don’t eat crunchy things, like chips.  Don’t hum.  Let me add a qualifier to that last one.  Don’t hum like I do.  I tend to hum the same melody line over and over until I’ve driven even the cats from the room.  I’ve been told by my daughter that it is very annoying.

Rule Number Four:  Absolutely NO suggestions.  “Why don’t you…What if you…It looks like to me,” are all off the table for the light holder, no matter how helpful you think your suggestions might be.  You will succeed only in irritating the person you are holding the light for.

Rule Number Five:  This rule is rather lengthy but very, very important.  If the person you are assisting is working under the floor, do not move the light away from the area where he is working in order to shine the light into another area under the floor where your cat is crying and seems to be stuck.  Pay special attention to this rule if the person of the first part is lying on his back and has just said, “There ain’t room enough under here to cuss a cat!”  The cat will prove him wrong, and you will have assisted him in doing so.  (You need to remember that cats rarely get stuck, or lost, for that matter.  They’re usually just waiting for an opportunity to do something ornery, like jump onto the chest of someone lying on his back under a floor.)

Holding the light is a very important job.  Don’t be discouraged if you mess up the first few times you try your hand at it.  The skill takes years to perfect.  I’ve been holding the light for Garey for 47 years, and I learn new stuff all the time.  Just this week, I learned you don’t lay a plastic flashlight down on a recently used stove burner.  Luckily for me, both the flashlight and stove were black, so no major harm done.  Thirty minutes and a bag of ice later, that melted plastic popped right off.



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