The illumination aisle

The sliding glass doors open. I confidently walk through and make a b-line for the back of the store. My parents don’t ask where I am going. They already know. Near the back but not quite at the bicycles is a unique version of paradise: the flashlight aisle.

As a kid this was as good as it could possible get outside of a well-stocked campground store.

When my parents announced that we were making the 5km trek to the best store in the country I was elated. They were going to Canadian Tire? Really? Why hadn’t they said something sooner?

After getting in the car I probably looked like I was going to Disneyland. Our Canadian Tire was in the northwest of Calgary. It is a standard rectangular big box store surrounded by a sea of asphalt.

I had a friend who lived in a townhouse nearby. Sometimes we went to the big field behind the parking lot to play or watch a game of ultimate Frisbee.

The store was enormous and filled with everything you could possibly need except clothes. Some of the stuff they sold was boring like tools and appliances but some of it was cool. There was sports equipment and knickknacks.

And flashlights. They really didn’t need to bother with anything else.

There were small ones great for traveling and stashing in backpacks. There were big ones that converted into lanterns that were perfect for late nights in tents. Then there was everything in between.

My Barents only bought me a couple of flashlights (how many does a girl really need). One was orange and flipped up to illuminate larger areas. It was heavy and needed several AA batteries.

The best one was a blue and yellow one made by Smith & Wesson. I was alarmed to learn that my flashlight company also made guns. It was sturdy and fit snuggly in my hand. The beam was bright and focused. It sat proudly in my desk drawer.

I don’t know where it is these days or what happened to it. I do remember shoving it happily into my duffle bag when I was told to pack for a trip.

The only flashlight I own now is a small one specifically for using in hostels. It’s good for when you come in and everyone’s asleep and you don’t want to make too much noise rustling about in your stuff. Or when you have an early train or bus and don’t want to be the idiot who turns on the lights at 4:00 am.

The rest of the time I have my handy dandy iPhone, which does almost everything I could possibly want it too. It’s a year and a half old so in cellphone years it’s cranky and telling kids to get off its lawn. It crashes when I try to open my notifications. But it has a flashlight, calculator, camera and more music than my yellow Sony Walkman could have imagined existed on it. I don’t know what I would have done with something like this back or junior high. When I was young you had to own several different items in order to have all that with you but now you don’t.

I wonder if any kids giddily wander the flashlight aisle imagining what they would do with each one or trying to find the perfect flashlight for the summer camping season. I doubt it but maybe I was the only one who ever did that anyways. It’s an obsessive quality that one. It says if I only had the perfect one of those for that purpose then my life would be great. It would be streamlined and efficient. I would only own things that are useful and ideal for their purpose. It’s about control and planning, sa weird combination of minimalism and a desire to make an unpredictable and chaotic world fit into your plan.

It’s that kid standing there planning and wondering. Which of these is best? If I have this one then it will all be perfect. If I have to get up to go to the outhouse late at night I will have a blue flashlight with a bright beam that is a nice weight that is made by a gun company.

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