One of the things that hinders me in being a good educator - something I've not quite worked out how to overcome - is that I tend to expect a certain level of basic competence/thoughtfulness/education in everybody I meet. Being as full of my own education and knowledge as I am, this assumption does prevent me of being ridiculously patronising to everyone I ever encounter, but does leave me frustrated and rude when I'm disappointed. I am well aware that everyone's life experiences differ and we're all learning as we go, but that's not the point - I'm talking about an irrational instinct here.
Don't think I don't include myself amount the people I hold to this standard. In fact, imagine my frustration as I realise that I've made it nearly 29 years without ever having bought or changed a fluorescent tube light.
But not for long! Because today is a RACE AGAINST TIME to get a tube (or starter - thing, whichever is actually broken) fitted in the kitchen before night falls and we're forced to cook dinner by candlelight. So I'm learning things like 'measure the tube before you start shopping' and 'it would be a really good idea if you kept a step ladder in the flat' and 'wattage determines length' and 'we have the most unusual wattage/length available, apparently' and 'NOWHERE IN SOUTHGATE SELLS THE DAMN THINGS.'
This last a) is more than a little bit annoying, as I can't drive to the local B&Q even if I knew where it was, and b) ties in to my first point about an expectation of basic competence.
It tried my 'I'd rather be working on my PhD and not having to do housework AGAIN' nerves to go into ASDA, being the only local normal sized supermarket, find the lightbulbs section that had no tubes, the find a man in the ASDA uniform, ask him, "Do you sell fluorescent light bulbs? Because they're not in the light bulb section" only to have him nod enthusiastically before I even get on to the second sentence (which he obviously wasn't listening to) and lead me triumphantly to the light bulb section.
"Where?" I asked. "Where are your fluorescent lights?"
"...one minute," he replied, and disappeared.
I waited. I saw him with someone older and presumably senior wander down an aisle that wasn't this one. "One minute," he mouthed to me.
He reappeared with his senior colleague in my aisle, and the colleague looked at me expectantly.
"Fluorescent light bulbs," I repeated. In hindsight, I should have said tube, but he nodded because he knew what I was talking about.
And proceeded to examine the shelves full of incandescent light bulbs in front of us. He even picked one off the shelf to examine it.
I refrained from asking him if he knew anything about the products he sold.
"It's clearly not here," I said, "the boxes are too small, aren't they?"
He conceded that point, and also the point at ASDA don't sell them. And neither, I have learned while my ears gradually froze because my muppet-skin muffler doesn't cover them, does anywhere in Southgate.
So I came home, wrote this post and educated myself in the Ways of fluorescent tubes (including how rare my particular requirement is, thank you internet stores and Mr Murphy) and am now ready to walk to Palmers Green (armed with an actual headscarf, and gloves with actual fingers) to acquire said tube and starter - thing. I've even phoned the store - they stock them, hooray!