Friday, May 11, 2007

Papa gets grounded

Mama and 3B were out of town for a week a little while back--if you were reading carefully, you noticed and cared; if you didn't, don't worry, I've already taken you off 3B's 1st birthday party guest list--and I took advantage of their time away to do some long neglected chores, like trying to burn down our house.

My first chore was painting over the flaking paint on the windowsill in 3B's room that he stands at, bangs his hands on, and picks up paint chips from like they were Pringles. No, we didn't let him keep doing that; we draped a towel over the lead buffet so he couldn't touch it. And when the towel fell off, we told him to just take it easy on the paint chips, we didn't want him to ruin his appetite for dinner.

Painting, of course, is never as easy as smearing a solution of pigments in a volatile chemical brew on a surface. This job involved sanding down the old paint--which I'm pretty sure was made by dropping one white crayon in a bucket of molten lead--and sanding involved creating lots of lead dust, although our newest roommate made cleaning that up much easier. This job also involved about 13 miles of masking tape. Have you ever taped off a window frame? Are you done yet? Because I still don't think that I'm done. Could there be any more surfaces and narrow edges in a small space? And what a great time to learn that as I get older and start to grow hair in unfortunate places, my fingers are getting fat and shaky too--although maybe that's just a side effect of huffing paint fumes for a week.

Maybe it was my frustration at all that nitpicky painting prep work--listen to me, an editor complaining about nitpicky work--or perhaps it was my frustration at the electrician who put in our new breaker panel awhile back but never labeled it, or perhaps it was just my inherent laziness coupled with my inherent impatience that let me to dive into my next project--swapping out outlet faceplates for child-safe ones--without turning off a breaker. See, without them being labeled, how could I know which one to turn off? And, if I went through all of them to label them, I'd have to switch each one off, walk around to see what was affected, write it down, turn it back on, reset all the clocks, blah, blah, de freaking blah, right?

It would be much faster to just pop off the old face plates and slap the new ones on, as I had already successfully done on several outlets. (Of course, nothing is ever so easy--these have been painted onto the wall over the last 40 years, with the last painters not even bothering to tape off the outlets, so there's actually paint in the sockets. All this requires laboriously cutting through layers of paint just to free the old faceplates and a few other tedious steps that you don't really care about.)

It would be much faster if I didn't make contact and ground out an entire circuit, which is exactly what happened about 30 seconds into this second project. That meant that I did have to map all the circuits, plus call the electrician, because the breaker didn't trip, which I figured meant that two of the ancient wires in our wall had fused themselves together when I grounded the circuit. Leaving the circuit on could cause heat to build up at the point where they had fused, so I turned off the circuit, just to be sure that I didn't burn our house (and building) down. Turns out that the electrician couldn't come out until after Mama and 3B got back, which meant that they came back to a few orange extension cords attached to essential appliances like the refrigerator and the Dish DVR box.

The best part--besides not defibrillating my heart when I blackened the screwdriver tip--was when the electrician, who had been here all of 20 minutes called me at work and asked, "Have you ever heard of GFI circuits?"

"Yeah, that's the type of outlet that switches off if there's a ground fault in the circuit."

"Good. You know what they are. You might want to know that you have one on this circuit. I found it and pushed the reset button on the outlet. You're all set."

Long silence as I calculate how many hours I'll have to work to cover his minimum fee. "Well, that was easy."

"Yep. I love jobs like this."

"They pay the same by the hour, don't they?"

"I never thought of it like that, but yes, they do."

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  1. Anonymous12:28 PM

    Hey its only 120 volts not like its 220.

    That is a famous quote.

    TCB on DK letting the King get shocked.

  2. Actually, I was so fast (or the GFI circuit was) that I didn't feel the sting. You can call me the Flash, baby.

  3. Anonymous8:27 PM

    OMG you are just the best.

    Best best best!

  4. I know about GFCI circuits because I once had a clock plugged into one in one bathroom and a child who liked pushing the red button in the other bathroom. The one that said TEST and cut out both bathrooms until the reset button was pressed. It was not a very useful clock.

  5. Doh! No electrocuting yourself, or giving yourself even more brain damage (remember, I knew you in college so I know you already had some) from paint fumes.

    And I was one of those who noticed and cared that Mama and 3B were gone, because I know how that empty house feels. Good thing you had major renovation projects to keep you occupied.

  6. California Girl, I can only hope that 3B shares those genes with your kids.

    Henitsirk, I think that Mama's going to teach Barky how to dial 911 before the next time she leaves me to my own devices.