Lights Out!

Statistical evidence that I was right and Ben was wrong

Three or four years ago, Ben and I spent a night sharing a room at a friend’s cottage in Vermont. When bed-time rolled around, a conflict arose. It didn’t get resolved, but we moved on… Until last week, when the question of who was right and who was wrong was revived. This time, I took to the interwebs to crowd-source a verdict.

The results are in. 46 responses in total. Before we get to them though, let me address the inevitable accusation of bias.

Ben was the first to ask others to weigh in on the matter, not me:

I thought that was a good idea, so I opened the question up to a broader audience. I did my best to present a fair, impartial presentation of the facts. In doing so, I believe I actually misrepresented my own case by giving Ben too much credit, but it was important to me that there could be no claim of tampering with the results.

Even so, I received the following attack, almost immediately:

You are misrepresenting the situation. That is not how it happened. Your little survey will settle nothing.

In response, I asked Ben how he would write it more fairly. He declined to respond. I followed up:

I still haven’t heard back.

I think this fact alone suggests that Ben really has no case. He himself acknowledges that my presentation of the facts, which I believe to be fair, paints him as the asshole, and yet he is either unable or unwilling to provide an alternative telling — because he can’t.

Regardless, the numbers back me up, plain and simple. On to the results

The results, by the numbers

For context, Man A was the one who wanted the lights out, and Man B wanted to read. If you need the full story, you’ll find it at the bottom.

Starting with the basics: Who’s side are you on?

I began by asking the most basic question: If you have to pick a side, who is right and who is wrong? It was the only required answer on the survey. It oversimplifies things, I realize, but is just a start.

At this most basic level, I claim what would be considered a landslide victory in any national election.

More broadly…

But I recognize that this doesn’t necessarily paint a complete picture, so next I asked a more nuanced question: What do you think of the situation? For each character in the narrative, I offered three choices:

  • He’s 100% right
  • He’s 100% wrong
  • He’s mostly wrong, but I get what he’s saying

In these measures as well, the people clearly side with me.

But let’s go a little more in-depth into this question:

  • Of those who think one man is absolutely right, 64% think it’s me
  • Of those who think one man is mostly wrong, 57% think it’s Ben
  • And of those who think one man is absolutely wrong, a whopping 83% think it’s Ben. (Only one respondent felt I was 100% wrong, and I wonder if Ben responded…)


I wondered, going in, if people would have a sense of who was who in this story, and if that would impact their beliefs about who was right and who was wrong.

It turns out (almost disappointingly) that neither of those was the case

The split of who thought I was Man A or Man B, on its own, doesn’t tell us much. But the distribution of who was right and who was wrong was essentially the same, regardless of who you thought was Ben and Liohn. This is pretty comforting, because it suggests 2 things:

  1. The results are actually representative of the issue, and not just a popularity contest
  2. You don’t have a strong belief that either of us is right or wrong in general. I feel pretty good about that, because early results leaned heavily towards the belief that Man A was right, but also that Ben was Man A.
Distribution of the first 10 responses


I’m glad we went through this exercise.

Hopefully it shows Ben that I was, in fact, the more reasonable of the two. Well, no, not really. I guess what it really shows is that Ben’s position is pretty ridiculous, which was my contention the whole time. Ben, if you’re still not convinced, read the comments below.

But it also showed me that the matter wasn’t nearly as clear-cut as I thought. It turns out that a full 43% of you idiots out there think that Ben’s position was somehow justified. That maybe I should have somehow predicted the need for an eye mask, and having not brought one was my fault; that he had no responsibility to either carry a smaller light, or an e-reader, or warn me about his bedtime ritual; or that falling asleep in darkness is just a personal preference, not a standard of our society. Well, idiots, I am surprised, but acquiescent. Ben: You’re not alone out there, so take comfort.

The detailed comments

In the interests of privacy, I’m not including the names of the respondents, only their comments:

  • Man B has a special sleep request that conflicts with a normal sleep requirement. Man B should not dictate the situation — he needs to be accommodating, especially since it is possible to read elsewhere but not sleep elsewhere.
  • The standard norm for sleeping is with the lights out. The room is for sleeping, the bedroom, and it’s agreed that the time is also bed time. Further the general custom for sleeping in shared quarters is to turn the lights off and close one’s eyes as opposed to reading, masturbating, crying, masturbating then crying, push-ups or any other such activity. Should one of the sharing members require an additional activity to help sleep and if said activity directly hinders the sleep of other occupants, deference should be given to lights out and shut the fuck up time. That said, without further information about the time of day, the state of sobriety and the required time of wake up the following morning, it is impossible to determine if person B is being precious or not. With that in mind I conclude that person A is correct, and that depending on the aforementioned criteria person B could have maybe just been cool with some reading time.
  • The man who wants to sleep can only do it in bed. The man who wants to read can do that in another room. What Man B is doing is infringing on Man A’s right to fall asleep. Man B could theoretically fall asleep without reading. The fact that he wants read in bed is his preference but not his right. Hence, man A should prevail.
  • i like this idea of settling arguments on facebook!
  • I think you guys should see other people
  • Red light headtorches to be carried for these emergencies.
  • This argument is absurd
  • I don’t know Ben. If you are sharing a bed and one person is reading with a light on and you want to go to sleep you either put on a sleep mask and if you don’t have one, a sock will work just fine. I say this as a person who needs to read before falling asleep in bed and as person who is sensitive to light while sleeping.
  • Yes. Do people really read anymore?
  • Hahaha! This is funny! Man A should learn how to fall asleep anywhere, under any conditions. Man B should learn how to read in the dark (with an e-reader or red headlamp, barring actual superpowers).
  • You’re both idiots. Get separate rooms.
  • Buy a blindfold. How long does he need to read for?
  • We have that dilemma in my house- he got a sleep patch to cover his eyes.
  • Man A could put something over his eyes.
  • You guys are idiots. Next time bring an eye mask.
  • Reading on an iPad or e-reader in night mode is a good compromise!!
  • The only reason I think Man A is right is because man B has an alternative. If his need to read to fall asleep is so strict, then he should have a travelling little baby lamp for his book at all times.
  • ben cant be Man B because ben doesnt know how to read.
  • “Both go straight to “”you’re being unreasonable”” — there doesn’t seem to be any desire to solve the problem — and the inability to compromise even 50% is 100% wrong in my opinion, so yeah both are acting like jerks. For instance, A could put a pillow over his head for a little while, and B could limit his reading time to five minutes. Both are reasonable suggestions, that aren’t made.
  • If you’re gonna force me to take a side, I’d say this : man A must have a dark room while man B needs to read *in* bed. Each expects that his need will seem more important. But out of the two, B’s need is a little more far-fetched and I think he should be ready to compromise.”
    Jackdaws love my big sphinx of quartz.

The story… A recap

In case you missed it, here is the situation:

2 men are sharing a room one night. The room has track lighting overhead, and a desk lamp next to each bed.
They turn out the overhead lighting and go to bed.
Man B turns on his lamp, and begins to read.

Man A: “Could you turn off your light?”
Man B: “No, I’m reading.”
Man A: “But I’m trying to go to sleep. Can’t you go read downstairs?.”
Man B: “I need to read to fall asleep. Is the light really bothering you that much?”
Man A: “Yeah, it is. Go downstairs.”
Man B: “No, I need to read in *bed* to fall asleep in *bed*. The light’s not that bright, just go to sleep.”
Man A: “I don’t care how bright it is, it’s bothering me.”

Man A & B in unison: “You’re being unreasonable.”