toni stone
wonder works studio
401 buck hollow road
fairfax, vermont 05454


“once you have learned how to ask questions, relevant and appropriate and substantial questions,
you have learned how to learn and no one can keep you from learning whatever you want or need to know.”
-Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner

my private suffering is over. after four years, i finally figured out the problem, the two bathrooms, here in this house, have identical double light switches in the
same place, set up in opposite ways!

i have been hitting the wrong switch everyday, for years. when i wanted to put the light on i would switch on the fan, then i would turn it off,
silently call myself “stupid” and flick the light. this short, swift, repeated task, was two seconds, including the correction and, “make wrong”, administered to myself.
i have estimated doing this five thousand, eight hundred and forty times! each time, i got thwarted, called myself a name and wondered,
not what-the-real-problem-was but rather what was wrong with me. since nothing was wrong with me, i never got an answer to the question
“ what is wrong with me?”,or “why am i so stupid?”, i would say to myself “you always make this mistake” and sigh, or tsk, or
blow air-out-of-my-mouth, because this problem was not worth a lot of attention.

it was just a light switch. it was just a mistake. it was just a case of being a jerk.
i could not seem to remember which side the fan was on or which side the light was on, in either bathroom.

i never had such a long lived stupidity problem before …. i know, it takes awhile to learn the template of a new house, a new office,
but it never, ever, took me this long, to learn a light switch. this was not a big problem. it was a very long problem.
four years is a long time to have such a problem. i never talked about it to anyone. it was private embarrassment.

then last week i changed the question. i changed it from “why are you so stupid?” to “how can i be making this same mistake, for so long?”
the answer surfaced and, it said simply, “the light and fan switches in each bathroom are opposite to each other.” i didn’t give it much attention,
because the whole thing was so totally stupid in the first place, it didn’t even deserve attention! if you know what i mean?

so, for a few days the answer, pointing to what was so, floated around in my mind, like a useless dead fish, in a tank, with a few bites taken out of it.
it seemed a non-sequitur. i seemed too unimportant, i had no idea what it was, or what it meant. who was interested?
by this time it was a “mini legend” in my own mind. yet, i was saying, it didn’t deserve further consideration.

on the fifth day of having changed the question and hitting the wrong switch in the upstairs bathroom for the five thousandth eight hundred and forty seventh time,
i realized that the switches were in fact opposite to each other….downstairs the fan is the right switch. upstairs the fan is the left switch.
each bathroom shows the switch you were looking for, was not the one you chose…every day the unfulfilled expectation was the same.
let’s face it, how important can a light switch be?” ….there was no talk about it. it was undelivered communication. it was a private personal problem.
why would one tell anyone how stupid she was about such a trivial thing like switches in the bathroom?

yesterday i thought about the answer “the light and fan switches in each bathroom are opposite to each other” my immediate response was
“what kind of stupid person would put them in that way?” this was a useless question, so nothing more happened with that.

today i walked out of the bathroom and in a moment of clarity. i said to Steve “have you noticed you can never seem to hit the right switch for the lights
in these two bathrooms?” he turned around and said, “yes, i finally figured out, they are totally opposite to each other.”
i said, “it has taken four years of aggravation to make that distinction”. i asked, “can you label them for me?”
he said, “do you want me to change them?” “what?” i shrieked, “ i can change the wires inside so they are both the same.”, he told me

he got up, got a screwdriver, went into the bathroom and unscrewed the plastic plate. i watched.
in the same short time, as it took to turn on a fan, turn it off, then turn on the light instead, he had the wires in different places.
he was screwing the plate back on the bathroom wall.

after four years of suffering about being “stupid”, it had ended and it wasn’t even about, being “stupid”.
it was only about, having a secret complicated problem instead of a simple shared solution.