Volume 37, Issue 6, June 2002
How Many Does It Take???
by Lyle R. Hill
She had a pleasant voice and I really wasn’t all that busy, so instead of cutting her short, I listened to her entire introduction and explanation as to why she had called.
“Mr. Hill,” she began, “I’m calling on behalf of the Minnesota Institute of Political Science and Professional Wrestling and if you could spare just a minute of your valuable time, I would like to ask you a research question for a doctoral thesis that I’m working on.”
I was impressed instantly. I mean here I was all the way down in Chicago and a doctoral thesis research person was calling me to answer a research- type question. And they were from Minnesota, no less. You gotta love those people from Minnesota.
“I would be honored,” I replied.
“Thank you, Mr. Hill. Now here’s the deal … you have to answer the question with the first coherent thought that comes to mind and you cannot ask me any questions or request any explanations. Do you understand?”
“Yes, I think so,” I answered, hoping that I would be up to the challenge of handling questions that a doctoral research project was relying on. But already my hands were beginning to feel clammy and I could feel a bead of sweat forming on my left eye brow … that’s the eye brow that always sweats first when I’m nervous.
“OK,” she continued. “The question is as follows. How many governors does it take to change a light bulb?”
“What??? Could you repeat that???,” I asked, thinking she had said something about changing light bulbs.
“Well, I’m not supposed to repeat the question twice but you are from Chicago and all so here it is again … How many governors does it take to change a light bulb?”
To my surprise, I had indeed heard the question correctly. But maybe it was a joke of some kind. What could such a question have to do with a doctoral thesis?”
“Is this a real question or some kind of a joke?,” I asked.
“Mr. Hill … please … you are not supposed to ask me any questions. You are to answer my question with the first thing that pops into your mind. And besides, I’m from Minnesota and we are not allowed to joke around up here or ever display anything resembling a sense of humor.”
Now I knew she was telling the truth because I have known people from Minnesota and they are pretty humorless. So I thought I’d better get serious, too.
“Well I’m not sure. Is the governor in your question a Republican or a Democrat?”
“Mr. Hill, I’ve told you three times now that you’re not supposed to ask me any questions. And besides what difference does it make?”
“It makes a lot of difference,” I replied. “I mean, if he’s a Democrat, he may change the bulb, but first he’ll blame the Republicans for letting the bulb burn out in the first place, and then he’ll seek a federal grant to pay for the new one. If he’s a Republican, he will want to call in a few high-priced lobbyists to consult with to see if he can steer the job to one of his major corporate donors. So it does make a difference.”
“OK … OK, Mr. Hill. It’s a Republican governor. Now please … answer the question!”
“Is it an election year?”
“Who cares?,” she yelled into the phone.
“I care,” I calmly replied.
“YES … YES, it’s an election year … although I can’t imagine what difference it could possibly make and I’ve told you … you are not supposed to be asking me any questions!”
Awfully touchy, I thought, for a person doing doctoral research.
“How long has the governor been in office?,” I asked next.
Apparently we got disconnected and she couldn’t find my number to call back because I never heard from her again. And this was unfortunate because I really had a few more questions and I would have liked to know how the research was going.
Within a week, I had pretty much forgotten all about the unusual call from Minnesota. But one day I picked up on a radio talk show conversation wherein a similar study was apparently being conducted with regards to Chicago city employees … you know … how many of this or that type of city worker does it take to change a light bulb? So, I thought, maybe there’s more to this light bulb thing than I realize. And besides, I’ve always thought it would be neat to do a little doctoral research of my own, and who could you find that could doctor-up information better than a 30-year veteran of the glass business? So I began to conduct my own personal study … it was quite simple really. For a period of 48 hours, I asked each and every person that I received a call from this very simple but highly-effective question … how many people of your type and profession … would it take to change a burned out light bulb? The responses follow.
Banker: Sorry, we only change light bulbs that don’t need changing.
Teamster Truck Driver: We only deliver ‘em; we don’t change ‘em.
Koziac the Polish Accountant: 3.79.
An Architectural Aluminum Salesman: About four, cause you know for a fact that the first time we come out we’ll forget to bring the bulb, the second time we’ll bring the wrong color and the third time we’ll probably have the wrong size. It usually takes us about four times to get something right … if we’re lucky.
My Secretary, Bobbie: I changed it two days ago.
Auto Glass Installation Technician: It depends. If it’s an OEM bulb, just one. But if it’s a non-OEM bulb, it will take two cause after the first guy puts in a non-OEM bulb, a second guy will have replace it with an OEM bulb when the non-OEM one burns out two days later.
Architect: We don’t want it changed. We’re used to working in the dark.
Auto Glass Network Manager: We don’t really care how many it takes but we promise to save you money on the deal by paying less than the work is worth while splitting the savings between us. Naturally, we intend to keep most of the money saved for ourselves.
Union Glazier: Gotta know the size of the bulb before I can answer the question. If it’s a 50-watt bulb or less, that would be three men. If it’s over 50 watts but under 100, that would be four men. From 100 up to and including 175 watts, that would require a five-man crew. Over 175 watts, you divide the number of curls in the tungsten filament by the age of Thomas Edison when he died and multiply that by a factor of 6.75 over the square root of the average age of a glazier when he gets his first pension check. And if you gotta stand on a ladder to change the bulb, add two more men to the above crew sizes.
Non-Union Glazier: One, and would you like it done now?
Typical Sales-Rep Guy: My friend, am I glad you asked that question cause you know, we will change any bulb at any time and nobody changes a bulb like we do. And pal, we have the best bulbs in the world. They never burn out and you don’t even have to switch them off and on because they are programmed to know when you want them to go off and on. And old buddy, they are so inexpensive, that they are almost free. Listen, compadre, I’ll be right over to show you my complete line of bulbs and matching accessories. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah …
Hardware Supplier: Sorry, we’re out of stock.
Lawyer: Listen, I’ll be glad to answer your question, but tell me first, where am I sending my bill for answering this question?
Consultant: Well, to determine that, we’ll have to come out and do a thorough study on your entire facility to evaluate not only the situation at hand but the best possible method for dealing with it both now and in the future. I think we can present you with a detailed evaluation and a plan for change within about 30-45 days at a cost not to exceed $12,000.
Successful Contract Glazier: I don’t change nothing without a written change order with an agreed upon price.
Johnny The Mooch Rago: Change your own ^&#*@!%* light bulb, you idiot.
So there you have it … the results of my study. Somewhat enlightening perhaps. And I wonder … do they award doctorate degrees in light bulbology??? I think they do … in Minnesota. Ah, ya gotta love those Minnesotians … don’t ya know?
Lyle R. Hill is president of MTH Industries of Chicago.firstname.lastname@example.org
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