EMMET MEARA

Feeding a flashlight fetish

Posted Feb. 24, 2012, at 2:29 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 24, 2012, at 2:50 p.m.
Emmet Meara
Emmet Meara

It’s better to have one (seven) and not need it, than to need it and not have one.

I have heard this from my pistol-packing companions for years as they defend their personal firepower. I have adopted this National Rifle Association defense for one of my more outstanding compulsion-weaknesses. I have several of these. I love flashlights. Small flashlights, big flashlights, key-chain flashlights. I must have them.

When I left for my annual pilgrimage to Fort Myers, Fla., I had the Big Momma Maglite — the 4-cell one that cops use to beat miscreants. That was behind the driver’s seat. A small, quite bright light was behind the passenger’s seat. Naturally I had the L.L. Bean flashlight on my key ring. That was just getting started. I had the small Maglites in the backpack and of course my “luggage,” which is actually a battered duffel bag.

You never know.

In my computer bag is my favorite, a Z2 combat flashlight by Surefire. This was advertised as a “must” for combat or SWAT raids on meth labs. This light is so bright that it (allegedly) will blind a perpetrator for a second or two, time enough to get off a few rounds. I watch those cop shows endlessly and often recognize the Z2 in action. Naturally, I have to tell everyone in earshot that I have that light, too. Of course, I just use it to find my glasses in seedy motels, but the principle remains the same.

I have examined this flashlight syndrome with my personal psychiatrist, Dr. Frank Renew of Palatka, Fla. We have traced the origins to finding myself without illumination in the very dark woods of the Allagash. On one camping trip, a newcomer stumbled off into the night to find relief. Because he, too, failed illumination he fell down, cracked his head on a rock and required an all-night visit to a Canadian hospital for stitches. I luckily missed that trip but I still learned the lesson.

Another cause of the flashlight fetish was the problem that Blue Eyes and I had with fire alarms in the middle of the night in Boston hotels. We used to be in the Show of the Month club and would visit various playhouses. Now we rarely leave the couch. If you are awakened past midnight by a screaming alarm and recorded instruction to flee, you better have a flashlight to find the door, then the stairs (never take the elevator) to get out safely. All of the alarms were false, but the principle again remains the same.

My charming daughter explored the camping department at L.L. Bean one Christmas season looking for presents for her favorite father. The helpful clerk suggested a Maglite.

“He has more than you do,” she said, moving on to the knives. (Another problem area).

Thus armed for nocturnal illumination, I presumed that my flashlight-buying days were over. Then I visited the host with the most, John Purcell in Charleston, S.C., this week. He is the perfect stop between Rocky Mount and Spring Hill, is a consummate host and owns a downtown cigar bar.

Purcell, a former South Thomaston selectman and congressional candidate (He lost to Linda Bean) shares my interest in personal illumination devices. In fact, my last flashlight purchase was with him at a South Carolina gun show last year.

“You have to see this place,” he said this week. I was scared by the light in his eyes, but I went with him anyway.

I don’t know if you are aware of Batteries Plus. I know that I wasn’t. But like a good illumination addict, Purcell knew. In a dark corner of the store, far away from a bewildering array of batteries for every need, sat the flashlight display. Naturally, I had to look. The salesman came over in an Olympic sprint. He knew a couple of live ones. He was pitiless.

“This one is brighter than anything you have,” he said, whipping out the Redline 220 Lumen. He flashed it on the floor and walls. It was pretty impressive. Then he slammed it against the metal cabinet. “Look,” he said. The Redline 220 Lumen stuck to the cabinet.

Magnetized.

Sold. I had to have that in case I needed to stick a flashlight on a cabinet, right? Another $29.99 for the cause.

This is the Rolls Royce of flashlights. Click it once and it will send out beam that could melt wood. Click it twice and it sends out an S.O.S. Click again and you get a strobe light. Who could resist? Not me.

I could hear the voice echoing in my head. It could have been Purcell. It’s better to have it and not need it than… you know the rest.

Send complaints and compliments to Emmet Meara at emmetmeara@msn.com.

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