80: Watts My Line?

80: Watts My Line?

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home

Watts My Line?

We now know a thousand ways not to build a light bulb.

~Thomas Edison

Electricity and I don’t mix. For some reason, when I turn my mind to electrical repairs, my mind turns to mush. So I was surprised to find myself tackling a problem with an overhead recessed light fixture in our basement rec room.

For years, there had been a loose connection with an occasional annoying flickering from the light bulb. But recently, the flickering had turned to darkness and I began to attempt rudimentary repairs.

For the first few days, I periodically pushed the glass plate covering the recessed bulb, hoping that this would restore the connection. Sometimes it did, much in the way that a random kick will occasionally fix a malfunctioning vending machine.

But after a while, my taps on the plate failed to elicit a luminous response. So I bravely stepped into uncharted territory and actually removed the plate covering the bulb. I pushed the bulb up; I pushed the bulb down. I partially unscrewed the bulb and then screwed it in tighter. Sometimes the light came on and sometimes it didn’t.

My past history with electricity should have dictated that I stop there and call in someone who might know what to do — someone, say, like an electrician. But faced with an electrical quandary, the logical synapses in my brain once again gave out.

If there was a loose connection, I reasoned, then it must have been in the socket and all I needed to do was put something in there to tighten things up. As my left brain struggled weakly to object, the right side boldly insisted that I put a small piece of foil next to the base of the bulb to create a snugger connection with the socket.

Even my three-year-old daughter knows that she isn’t supposed to put anything into a light socket. But something told me that this little piece of foil would do the trick.

So I screwed the foil-encapsulated bulb into the socket and was greeted by a loud “Poof!” and instant darkness throughout the basement. Something had obviously gone wrong.

I admitted defeat and groped my way up the basement stairs to the cordless phone and called an electrician. I explained what had happened and he gently reminded me that it was not a good idea to put anything in a light socket other than a light bulb.

After he had me confirm that the bulb went “poof,” he directed me back to the basement to the circuit panel, with flashlight and cordless phone in hand. After banging my head on the furnace and my knee on a stray bicycle, I located the panel.

The electrician asked me to push each breaker switch all the way to the off position and then back to the on position. I diligently moved each switch right and left until I was greeted with a loud static noise on the cordless phone.

Once I finally realized that I had disconnected the circuit for the phone base upstairs, I hung up the phone, reset the breaker and waited for the electrician to call back. He soon did, and after he stopped laughing he suggested that we wait until the next morning to continue our investigations. I readily agreed.

Having suffered enough humiliation for one week, I decided to get an early start for work the next day. Just to be safe, I exited the house at 6 a.m. and left my wife to deal with the electrician.

~David Martin

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