Wednesday, June 04, 2008

My Electric Personality

I am not MacGyver.  I can't make something out of nothing.  And I am not David Nathaniel.  I can't do just about any project no matter how large or small and come out successful.  But I am not totally inept.  I can usually handle small projects around my house or car.  I am not going to be building a new garage, but I can fix the handrail on my steps, repair a leaky sink, bury a bathtub in the ground at Guy's Sand River Estate to use as a fire pit with relative success.  And by in large I enjoy these little projects.  Plumbing, carpentry, roofing, even masonry are fine.  But I hate electrical.
Part of my reason is that I am afraid of it.  Because it's dangerous.  You can get injured doing carpentry if you aren't careful, or you can get all sorts of bad fumes from soldering your pipes together, but no one have ever been killed by PVC pipe.  One zap to the right body part from a loose wire can kill you dead.  No questions asked.  Water will dry.  Nails pull out.  But electric shock can't be undone.  And seeing as the 
operation of your heart and nerves and brain depend on electrical impulses I don't want to mess with it.  My heart isn't going to stop if I hook up a pipe wrong and it sprays water all over me.  I am probably not going to go brain dead if I build a bird house that is crooked.  But if I let two of those little wires touch it's ZAP! and the house is on fire.  I am not comfortable with that.
Also, electrical tends to be small.  Small wires in small spaces that my fat fingers don't reach into very well.  So that compounds mistakes.  I mean, the average electrical box is like 4 x 4 inches; my hand is bigger than that.  So what's a guy to do?  I know that plumbing can involve some small areas but even your average copper pipe I can still hold in my hand, not my fingers.  So most of the time I am doing electrical I find that I am using tools like needle nose pliers and tweezers and whatnot.  And that compounds mistakes too.  So as you can see I am leery every time I have to do electrical.
That being said, I will still do some basic electrical jobs.  I've strung wires for trailer lights before.  I've done car stereo installation.  That goes just fine.  I change batteries and whatnot.  So I decided to replace the lighting fixture in my bedroom with a ceiling fan.  That's what we call a value added project.  I figure it will be simple enough.  Pull the fuse, cut the wires to the light, attach the wires from the fan, put the fuse back in, and away we go.  Wrong.
First of all, I live in a 100+ year old house that has been partitioned into apartments.  So much of what's been done is old and homespun.   I forgot this important piece of information.  So I pull the fuse in the basement (safety first!) and start pulling down the light fixture.  First of all, I find that all that is holding the light into the ceiling is one screw and about 4 coats of dried paint.  Not good.  So I get that pulled down and I find a tangle of old wires, decaying insulation, and stunningly modern connectors wedged inside of an electrical junction box.  Fantastic.  I am expecting to see two sets of wires, maybe three if there is a ground involved.  Instead, as I start pulling apart the rats nest, is approximately eleventy billion different wires.  One set sort of an off-white, the rest black.  And they all seem to be connected to each other.  Great.
At this point I sort of wonder if I am in over my head.  But I proceed.  I cut the wires to the light, put up the mounting bracket for the fan, get out the fan motor and start hooking it up.  I am stripping and connecting and wrapping things in electrical tape.  I almost look like I know what I am doing.  All I am doing it hooking up the black wires for the fan to the same place where the black wires for the light were hooked up, and hooking up the white wires for the fan where the white wires from the light were hooked up.  Seems simple enough.  I get it all done and bop down to the basement and throw the fuse back in and ZAP!  I literally hear a zap when the fuse gets plugged in.  And the fuse basically welds itself to the fuse box.  I have managed to somehow create a short, despite the fact that I took pains to make sure there was no metal touching metal.  That's just great. 
So now I have no light in my bedroom.  I have no fan.  In fact I have no electricity in there at all.  Not until Monday at the earliest.  I have electricity to the rest of my apartment.  But not to the bedroom.  On Monday we get the fun of going up in the attic, pulling out the electrical box, messing around with the wiring to figure out what is what, and rewiring it a bit so that we can get it fixed.  How great.  That is exhibit one as to why I don't do electrical work if I can help it.  That ZAP! could very well have been me.  That ZAP! could very well have started a fire.  I am glad and lucky that it didn't.  As for me, should go.  I have to go pull out the futon and get sheets on it.  I hope I enjoy basically living in a studio apartment for the next week.  Maybe I will go work on the railing on the stairs though.

2 comments:

KingBobb said...

Dave, Dave, Dave.....you should have made Egypt do it. He's not very grounded anyway. He probably wouldn't have gotten hurt. And you could have stuck a lightbulb in his mouth like Uncle Fester from The Addams Family. Which would have been pretty hilarious in its own right. Glad to hear that you didn't get Zapped. And glad that you waited until I left before you got into that level of fun-ness. I'm not a fan of electricity either. Sorry Mr. Edison....

SandRiverGuy said...

thats ok big dave i hate electrical to. and i suck at all projects...i cant even fix my god damn sink thats been broken for a year!!!