An Update on The House and Why I Should Never Be Allowed To Touch Appliances

CLH did something very special today. He wired an electrical outlet onto its own circuit. I don’t even know if I’ve said that correctly, but it was incredibly impressive to me to see. Yesterday the basement was a black smelly void and today it’s a well-lit smelly office space. Being deathly afraid of electricity, I avoid the remodeling tasks that involve electricity. Move furniture, paint rooms, tear down molding, hang curtains, change light bulbs, haul trash, build garden, mow grass, polish floors, yes. Touch the wiring? No freakin’ way.

The last run-in I had with do-it-yourself wiring involved a puff of black smoke, a clapping noise, and a temporary power outage in the office. I was there on a Saturday. That should give you a good indication of where my head was to begin with. I had just taken the job in the front office and, since we were switching over as a company to computers from typewriters and carbon paper, i thought I would usher in some newness of my own by painting and redecorating my office. There was one giant problem: the walls were covered with bulky sliding door cabinetry from the ’70s. I can’t quite remember the color of the things. It was something in between steel gray and failure. Anyhow, I called a friend to come with me to the office so she could help out with the removal of these cabinets around my desk. She was a good friend.

It seemed simple enough: just unscrew one end and then the other, having helper hold the end not being worked on with screwdriver. The unscrewing was easy. It was the little flourescent light that threw me for a loop. I’d forgotten that little sucker was mounted underneath the cabinets. (Sidebar: now that i am thinking about it, this was the second office I worked in the late nineties/early 00’s that had these revolting cabinets on the walls. What was it with me and a) missing the dot-com boom, and b) working with people who liked working on the set of the Mary Tyler Moore show?) Anywho, the light. I’d forgotten he was up there. And he was up there GOOD. Mounted to the underside of the cabinets (needed another sized screwdriver to de-barnacle the cabinet) and then hardwired into the wall. Hardwired. No little cord running to an outlet. When these people said “seventies”, they’d meant it.

Well, I knew that the little guy wasn’t getting replaced, and I wasn’t going to be plugging in anything else at 4 and 3/5 feet off the floor, so I just yanked the wires from the fixture and let them hang out of the little holes in the walls. One of the wires had a little (orange, was it?) cap hanging from the end of it. The other didn’t.

But now I had these hang-y cords coming out of the wall. Definitely not part of the redecorating plan. I had to do something with them, and I just figured I could ask one of the shop guys on Monday to just clip ’em… so i did what any idiot with compulsive tendencies toward order and who knows nothing about electricity would do: i shoved the one cord into the cap with the other cord.

Enter the smoke and the flash and the comment, “So THAT’S what burned flesh smells like…” I don’t know what we did, exactly, or what actually happened after the BANG noise, i just know that on Monday, my computer and my phone had both lost power, and, when asked about it, i just shrugged and backed up nervously to block with my body the black soot stain on the wall.