Not Unto The Ages of Ages, I Hope

Not Unto The Ages of Ages, I Hope July 11, 2016


Michael touched his voltage tester to the light socket in the kitchen. There was a small flickerof green lights, which I tried to look like I appreciated.

“See?” said Michael.

Nothing came to mind except a line from James Thurber. “The electricity is pouring out of the socket, making a costly leak?”

Michael sighed, and tried to explain to me about wiring for the hundredth time. I tried to listen, for the hundredth time. I am an absolute dunce at all things electrical; at all things construction-related, as a matter of fact.  As a liberated, pro-life feminist obedient to Rome, it always irks me when I’m useless at anything stereotypically masculine, but there you go. I once flabbergasted Michael by admitting that I thought “Arc Welding” was using a blowtorch to bend steel bars into an arch shape.

In any case, I gathered from Michael’s explanation that our house was a character-filled old building that had been wired by idiots. I felt very wise about wiring, and went on my way not thinking about it. The best kind of wiring is the wiring you never have to think about.

This house does not have that kind of wiring.

This morning I tried to plug our new printer into the outlet I’d been warned not to use, because every time I use it the breaker trips for half the house. I only know that it trips the breaker for half the house because Michael told me so. I kept on saying “we blew a fuse” and he kept on explaining that we don’t have fuses, we have breakers, thank God. Apparently no house has had fuses since the Spanish American war. In any case, I forgot myself and plugged in the new printer.

There was sulfurous smell and a small burst of sparks. Half the power in the house went out.

“You popped a breaker,” said Michael, in the dark.

I did worse than pop the breaker. Somehow I ruined the whole outlet. Perhaps I even blew a fuse, or angered the genius loci. Michael went down to the cellar with a flashlight, as he always does, but this time he couldn’t fix it by throwing a switch. Every time he turned the breaker back on, the lights would flicker on and off, there’d be a loud pop, and a burst of smelly sparks would come out of the outlet. He had to get out his tools, turn off the power and do something to the outlet. I don’t know what. For all I know he prayed over it. At one point he asked for a flat head screwdriver; I panicked and brought him every screwdriver in the house. And then the power was back on, and Michael was asking me whether I thought he should put a cap on the wires and cover them or replace the outlet, and I was nodding my head, trying to look appreciative.

This might be a good time to tell you that we’re all taking baths in the kitchen for a day while the ceiling tiles dry out enough that we can have someone in to look at the upstairs bathtub drain pipe, which randomly decided to drain right through the kitchen ceiling onto my spice rack instead of through the plumbing. At least, I assume we have plumbing. Michael will probably read this post, roll his eyes and inform me we have little sleepless elves with a magic bucket brigade.

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