Monday, May 21, 2012

Streetlight Shenanigans



31st Street in San Mateo. CA
Everybody’s seen streetlights go out, but---like this!?---It’s 1990.  I’d parked my truck under a streetlight in the Twin Peaks district of San Francisco.
I’d worked a day at my shop doing furniture finishing across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County. It’s dusk.
I don’t notice that the streetlight's on but when I get out of the truck it goes off. I notice that. I’ve been noticing that happens and I ask myself---what’s going on? This happens too frequently to be coincidental.
I walk on the sidewalk down Aquavista Way. The first streetlight I pass goes off.  The second one goes off too and so does the third. I’m walking in stain splattered work clothes down a length of street in a middle class section of San Francisco and the streetlights are going out one by one as I pass under them--- then, after a few moments--- they reappear.

View of San Francisco from Twin Peaks
It's Friday. Work's over. It's time for beer and pretzels with friends in the woodworking trades. The bar is on Folsom Street near 8th Avenue in the South of Market district of San Francisco, and my pals have just crossed the street. They’re waiting on the other side for me to cross. I point at the streetlight on their side and yell “that light’s going to go off when I get there!” When traffic allows I run across and when I get there the light goes out. My friends back away in astonishment maybe not only because of the event but for the accuracy of its prediction. 

Studio warehouse where I lived and worked on 8th and Folsom in San Francisco
I’m driving alone late at night up Highway 101 north and as I do notice many street lights blink off as I hurtle up the freeway.  
What’s going on?
Table and chairs I finished circa 1990
I’m in the office of my psychiatrist at the Veterans Administration Hospital in San Francisco, and he’s asking questions. Standard questions policy obliges him to ask when we meet. Have you heard voices in your head? No.  Have you had any hallucinations? No. Have you had thoughts of harming yourself or others? No. Have you seen streetlights going out? Yes. I don’t like my doctor thinking streetlights going out is all in my head, but it seems to me he does. I urge him to do a search---please Google streetlights going out and the next sound I hear is tapping on a keyboard as he does exactly that.   
I don’t know what’s going on with this oddity of the blinking lights. Sometimes I think it is part of some kind of occult manifestation. I notice the lights seem to go out more frequently when I’m stressed. I wonder if there’s a subtle electronic connect between mania and fluorescent lamps.
I know the phenomena exists and I know it’s been studied scientifically, but the vast majority of what I know about it is from personal experience.

It’s summer 2003. I’m on graveyard shift working security at Electronic Arts in Redwood City. I’m with another security guard chatting in the quiet dark near a lamppost light that’s sputtering off and on. Then it goes out. I lift my arms---extending them towards the light. My fingers tremble and my arms shake while my body strains to resurrect the light. It blinks as if wondering what to do. I know I can sometimes bring lights back because I’ve brought other flickering lights back to life in past episodes that were solitary on other graveyard shifts. The lamp light turns full blown back on. I drop my arms. The other security guard is just astonished. I don't know if it's because he thinks I'm a great con artist or because he thinks I really brought back the light. But he gives me a right on high five.