Self Illumination

Can?t find your way around the city? Look overhead.


What with this autumn's delayed shift back from daylight savings time, evenings seem to fall just a little harder since November 4. I can't help noticing, while trudging around my Lower Queen Anne neighborhood, that that the sidewalks have grown really dark--full of trip hazards and inconvenient puddles. The reason is that half the streetlights in LQA don't seem to be working. Inspired to civic duty, I discovered this neat city Web site for reporting malfunctioning or burned-out streetlights, but there's a catch. In addition to requesting the street address on its official form, Seattle City Light asks you to report the pole number of the dead lamp in question. Now, when schlepping home with one's paper shopping bags swiftly decomposing in the rain, it's not that hard to remember the approximate location where you trod in an ankle-deep puddle, stubbed your toe on a curb, or stepped in dog shit. (As of yet, there's no city Web site to report that last problem.) But how can you possibly read the pole number in the darkness? (Didn't Joseph Heller write a book on this subject...?) It's supposed to look like this:


Which would require a light to discern, which you don't have, which is why you're squinting upward into the rain and black. So you wait until the next day to look for the pole number in the daylight, by which time you've forgotten which one it is -- because they all look alike, they're all switched off, and the dead soldier doesn't reveal itself by distinction. But at least we have a Web site to report the problem. And spring is only 125 days away.

Update: Here's the status as of October, 2008, as the city announces a new program for regular streetlight maintenance.

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