Electricity and I. Me? Myself?

Sidebar: At “getting my arms around” and doing a “deep dive” (MBA speak) into grammar, I note that the word “me” has fallen almost completely out of favor. Possibly this is due to grade school trauma of using “me” or “I” incorrectly and being harshly reprimanded for that error. Now the word “myself” has come to replace both; thus freeing one up from having to select one or the other of those pronouns. Fine. That works pretty well most of the time, except “give it to myself” sounds a bit clumsy. Now to recount a few adventures I have had, or I know of, with electricity.

When I was first learning my husband’s family tree (absolutely enormous, by the way; I still don’t have it straight) I was told that his paternal grandfather had been electrocuted. What? Seriously? But I was thinking of electrocution as a punishment needing a special chair. What was really the case was his grandfather working on the roof of his family’s home; maybe hunting for squirrel nests or such. He accidently encountered wires leading from the street power line into the home, one or more of which was live. Extremely sad, but he was not a criminal. He was an Orthodox priest.

As a medical student, I served a brief stint in the emergency room of our teaching hospital. My function was to stay out of the way of the people who knew what they were doing. I was to try to learn a bit as well. When a lineman (not football; power) was brought into the emergency room, dead on arrival, also electrocuted, I learned something valuable. I learned to look for characteristic burns of entry and exit wounds from electricity, lightening, whatever.  That pretty much determines the cause of death, as opposed to a heart attack, gunshot (that should be fairly easy, though) or other fatal insults.

To steer away from these upsetting stories, I can relate some of my personal accomplishments, none of which ended in death, or even serious injury. The initial electrical project in our new house was to meticulously label what circuit controlled what in the control panel. I was stationed in a certain room, hoping most of the lights therein were on the same circuit. Sam was at the electrical panel and methodically flipped switches off and back on. One by one, in rapid succession, he would shout at the top of his lungs “Is that it?” and I would screech back, equally loudly but in a much higher pitch “No” or “Yes.” So, all the circuits were labeled in the panel box. Very useful on several occasions.

What if some appliance or bank of lights no longer worked? Their circuit had to be identified before repairs were attempted. Similar scenario, but some guesswork was eliminated by the labeled circuits. Work could proceed safely with power to that area turned off. But if an entire circuit was broken or blown or snapped it was my job to identify which one it was. What could possibly be more tedious? By this time cell phones replaced the shouting. Once the defective breaker was identified (but wouldn’t it be the one that was flipped into the “off” position—it’s been so long I am obviously missing something here?) it would be replaced with a new one. Genius. I guess I can claim modest success with this particular electrical skill. I also learned to figure out if a socket was live by plugging a hairdryer into it. My only real electrical accomplishment.

My inability to qualify for an electrical apprentice job was due to a misadventure with a giant floor sander. That story was published in an earlier blog series recounting post-retirement tribulations. The job was to sand the floor of a loft space that Samantha would eventually occupy. Remember the Sam Razook Family Motto, “We do it ourselves!” Three or four commercial self-propelled floor sanders were rented and lugged up into the loft. Soon the machines roared into action. I hadn’t expected the self-propelled part to be so powerful, and I was soon being dragged across the room at breakneck speed. Yikes. Within a couple of minutes my sander was completely out of control and attacked its own power cord. There was considerable arcing and sparking, then the machine quit. Thank goodness.

No one had any sympathy (I could have been electrocuted!), and I was banished, sniffing pitifully, to the closest hardware store for electrical tape. The clerk seemed puzzled about what about electrical type was so sad, but wisely asked no questions. I returned to the workplace, repaired the cord, and glared sternly at my co-workers. The project was finished, sanders were returned to Home Depot rental in the allotted time. There was no mention of black tape wrapped around the orange cord. Whew.

Stay safe and well. I am praying for you.

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