I recently took a four-day trip home to California, and I spent three of those days in the dark. My family, and more than half a million others in Northern and Central California, had their power shut off in an attempt to prevent electrical fires during this year’s increasingly severe, climate-change-induced wildfire season. In our case, the outage came on the eve of my father’s 60th birthday party.
The prospect of feeding and entertaining 20-plus guests without a working fridge or bathroom lights had us scrambling to prepare food, charge phones, and match batteries with a random assortment of flashlights. It was then that a family friend presented my dad with a gift that would solve everything except for the food issue: a three-pack of Sunbeam night-lights.
Night-lights may seem like an odd present to give a grown adult, but it so happens that my father had eyed the lights at a friend’s house the week before, so his friend bought my dad a few of his own. (It was pure coincidence. He had no knowledge of the planned power outage.) These Sunbeam lights aren’t merely night-lights: They also function as flashlights and, thanks to a built-in USB port, phone chargers. When plugged in, the device has a pleasant, motion-sensor, multicolored glow. If you need a flashlight, just unplug the whole thing and press the button to activate a bright beam on the base. Most important for us, these night-lights have rechargeable batteries, so all of the functions continue to work when the power goes out.
We immediately opened the lights and popped them into our then-working outlets. The lights charged through drinks and dinner, and then, when the power went off right before dessert, they continued to light our evening. Certainly Sunbeam night-lights don’t have a comparable battery life to top-of-the-line phone chargers, and their rectangular shape is a bit atypical for most flashlights, but multiple people used them for both purposes. I even used one the morning after the party to charge my phone.
The power has long-since been restored to my family’s home, but the Sunbeam night-lights are still plugged in. And although I’m not hoping or planning for any outages in New York City, a package of three just arrived at my apartment in Brooklyn too.
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