They say that God watches over lovers and fools. Now let me tell you about the dumbest thing I ever did.

Paul Burri

Paul Burri

I have been a photographer since I was 12 years old. Naturally, when I got married and had children, I was impelled to document their every moment — especially in their younger years.

One day I came home from work to find my wife on her knees in the bathroom bathing my two young children. They were ages 5 and 2 at the time, and she would often bathe them together. It was a fun time for the three of them.

So when I saw this memorable family scene, my first thought was to take pictures of it. This was back in the days when flash photography used flash bulbs. (If you don’t know about flash bulbs, ask a grandparent.) So I got my camera and flashgun but couldn’t find any flash bulbs. No problem: I had two clip-on photo flood lights.

If you don’t know about flash bulbs, you probably don’t know about photo flood lights. Photo floods were special bulbs that were extremely bright, made especially for indoor photography. You used them in special aluminum reflectors that had a spring clamp so you could attach them to a chair or whatever was convenient.

So I got one of my photo floods and brought it into the bathroom. But the only place to clamp it was to the shower rod directly over the edge of the bathtub — which I did. Then I plugged it in and turned it on. Great! Now I had enough light for my picture.

I continued to jockey around for just the right angle when suddenly the clamp slipped off the shower rod and the photo flood — still plugged in — fell down. It hit the edge of the tub and bounced onto the floor.

Then I had the sick realization of what might have happened. It could have fallen into the tub — a plugged-in electrical appliance falling into the tub holding my two kids, and my wife with her arms also in the water.

Even as I write this many years later, I am covered with a cold sweat at what could have happened that day and at how dumb I was. I’m sure God was watching over us that day.

— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer and iconoclast. He is not in the advertising business, but he is a small-business counselor with the Santa Barbara chapter of Counselors to America’s Small Business-SCORE. The opinions and comments in this column are his alone and do not represent the opinions or policies of any outside organization. He can be reached at