The Problem with Fluorescent Lighting
by John Drake
- Fluorescent lighting may be the embodiment of all that is bad in modern
- Unknowing, we wrap ourselves in the corrupting glow of fluorescents
on a daily basis. In the supermarket, at the mall, in restaurants, and
in the workplace. The great God Fluorescence has only two magical powers
in his arsenal, but they are mighty indeed. They are spells to which you
are subject, but they act without your knowledge, below the threshold of
what you choose to perceive. They sicken and corrupt your life every moment
that you are beneath them. Both spells can be easily detected, if you know
what to look for, and not enough people do.
- The first spell would have terrified ancient man; it would have rendered
him speechless and trembling. Place him underneath the baleful fluorescent
scourge and he will fall hysterical to his knees, wailing with the certain
knowledge that his soul has been ripped from his body. Fluorescent lights
- of the style found in most offices and public places - cast no shadow.
No shadow at all.
- From the first moment that man's consciousness poked its tender bud
through the loam of prehistory, shadows have been the dominant mentor and
companion to humanity. Employed by the sundial, shadows first created the
concept of linear time from the vagary, indistinct realms of night and
day. Shadows predate pictograms and hieroglyphics, perhaps even language
itself, the first tool with which man created realities from his imagination,
in the flickering form of finger play projected large and looming onto
rough cave walls. And so, now, you spend most of your waking hours bereft
of your one most true and faithful companion, your shadow. Black magic
indeed, this art they call "diffused lighting." They have stolen
your shadow. And, most likely, you never even noticed.
- The other spell that afflicts the masses, the other treachery that
fluorescence has wrought upon the unknowing masses, is both simpler and
more complex. Fluorescent lights are not white, no matter how the gleaming,
smooth, cool, modern tubes that stand sentry above our heads might seem.
- Rather, they cast a green glow, an unhealthy green glow of the sort you might expect to
emanate from a chunk of kryptonite, the color of the halo you might expect
to envelop an avatar of the mucous-plague god. It can't be seen; our brains
edit it out. But the observant person walking in from the bright sunshine
might notice it, for a moment or two. And the camera, sans flash, will
detect it, every time.
- All the livelong day it shines, green on our skin, green on the faces
of the men and women who populate our worlds, making them into aliens,
making them seem nauseous and ill.
- Bad enough on the face of it, to be sure, but wait: it gets worse.
The same people who brought you fluorescent lights, the same people who
stick those deceptively alabaster spokes into the wheels of work-a-day
luminescence, also bring you television. Television, the window through
which the average American spends five plus hours per day gazing, a window
which casts everything in a just below liminal tint of blue, the color
of sunny skies and clear waters. Not only do we spend our days, our "real
lives" such as they are, tainted by this ghoulish green-hued aura,
not only are our friends and coworkers and acquaintances permanently tarred
by the vermilion brush. Not only this tarring of the real, but an elevation,
a beautification of the unreal.
- Small wonder, then, that the girls are prettier on television, and
the men manlier, the bosses kinder, and the lovable curmudgeons more lovably
curmudgeonly. They're the color of friendliness, of picnic skies, of the
sea and the clean lake. And all of the real people, well, they're an unhealthy
shade of green, the murky pond, the vomit that comes unexpected in the
- --John Drake