We have not one but two broken light bulbs in our house—both still in their sockets (if a broken mirror is an omen of seven years of bad luck, I’m not sure what our situation portends). My husband had heard that there is a tool designed to remove such bulbs safely. We are both English teachers who know our limits when it comes to even the simplest home repair, so…

Last week I walk into Home Depot to buy a new toilet to replace our 1939 model that finally gave up the ghost and the gush, and, while I’m there, I ask an employee, “Do you have the tool that removes a light bulb that has broken in its socket?”

He’s obviously never heard of such a thing, but he leaves to ask someone in the electrical department. When he returns, he says that there is such a tool (called a potato) and that they don’t carry it, but I might try a hardware store.

The next day my husband and I visit our local Ace Hardware. We approach the first worker we see.

“Excuse me. We are wondering if you have a device called a potato that is used to take out broken light bulbs. Someone told us you might sell it here.”

A moment of silence.

He doesn’t laugh out loud, not yet. I’m sure that came after we left the store.

What he says is this, with the kind of slow pronunciation one reserves for young children or post-anesthetic patients: “It’s a potato.”

Oh. “Like the kind we would find in a grocery store?”


Next time, I’ll ask Google: