When the pump on our pressure tank starts, the lights in my apartment momentarily brighten. This is due to the way they are wired. The lights and the pump respectively are wired on opposite hot legs of a single 240v center-tapped feed. Because the neutral conductor runs a long distance from earth ground to pump and is #10 wire, the pump's starting surge pulls the neutral off zero and towards its own hot leg, which is farther from the light circuit's hot leg, making the voltage higher and the lights brighter, just for a moment.
The only other time I recall seeing lights brighten like
these was some time in my mid teen years, around 1960, when I went with
Llewellyn Evans and others to an Astronomical League convention in
It was my lot to sleep on a sofa in the living room of Chandler Holton. Some of his story can be found by searching the internet for his name. He was graduated from MIT, then taught mathematics at Georgia Tech. I remember him as a shy, gentle man, so often smiling that he was often called "Smiley Holton". I remember passing the evening with him in this elegantly appointed room lighted by a small and simple but elegant chandelier. About every 20 minutes or so the lights would go bright, no doubt for the same sort of reason they do here. The brightening struck me as an elegant phenomenon for an elegant man who lived in an elegant house. I liked the man very much. He was kind to me. How elegant was he? Well, at some point in the night a noise woke me to see him passing through my darkened room with not a flashlight but a candle, the light making his tall thin frame seem gaunt, but lighting up his smile.
Not everyone liked Smiley.
I recall some chap complaining that if you asked "What time is
it?" and someone answered "Two-thirty", you could count on
On some subsequent occasion, I don't remember where or when,
I stayed with
Now over 40 years later, when the lights in my apartment
surge bright, I experience that same warm feeling inside that I once
© 2005 Joseph Mansfield. Written 2005.09.23. Modified and posted 2005.09.29.