24 May 2013

Empowered!

Welcome back. Last March, I revealed that I am haunted by a homeowner’s Plumbing Curse. I also mentioned that, while I had no fear of plumbing, that was not the case with electricity. Life in our new old-building apartment has validated my electrical concern.

Ice Storm

Stepping out to jog in the predawn April darkness, I was walking on thin ice. Really. I heard and felt it crunching. I reached the road before discretion sent me back inside to the stationary bike.

After a workout and my usual healthful breakfast, as if on schedule, the lights went out. My senses heightened. A blindfolded ninja, I moved deftly to find a flashlight and wake my wife Vicki. Ensured that she was set to respond, I went to brush my teeth and take a nap.

(Again, I don’t deal well with electricity, especially when a fuse box somewhere in the downstairs garage controls the destiny of an eclectic collection of wires strung 60 to who knows how many years ago. But don’t worry; Vicki told me everything that happened.)

Vicki checked her father, who had also lost power. It had been so many years since the power went out (I think she added that for my benefit), he didn’t have the phone number of the power company handy. She got the number from her smartphone, called and learned that the ice storm had caused widespread power failure. 
Tree limbs on the road after the April ice storm.
The sun was beginning to rise. To survey downed wires, trees and branches, Vicki walked along the road toward a neighbor’s home, where she found the power company servicemen already at work. They advised her that our power would soon be restored. Others in the region weren’t as lucky.

Faulty Wiring

All went well power-wise until May if you don’t count cold showers because the water heater twice blew a fuse. Then without warning the electrical power failed to our bathrooms, my office area and lesser areas. (OK, Vicki wouldn’t consider her closet a lesser area.) 

 
The garage fuse box (in daylight).

Finding nothing amiss in the fuse box, Vicki called one, then, after a night of flashlights, candles and no response, another electrician, who would come that same afternoon.

On arrival, Jeff, the responder, mapped how the fuses divided the apartment into four autonomous sections. He then proceeded to systematically dismantle sockets, switches and light fixtures to power-check the wires in the affected section. After most had been examined--Hallelujah!--the lights came on!

Jeff wasn’t sure which of his expert tweaks did the trick, but why argue with success? Unfortunately, his humble response to our reverential praise was warranted. Two days later, for no apparent reason, the power went off again. Vicki called Jeff. Two hours later, for no apparent reason, the power came on again. Vicki canceled Jeff.

Only I, with my engineering and scientific grasp of such phenomena, could conceive the full range of possible causes, from ghosts--Vicki’s family, of course--to jokester mice chewing wires, which would ultimately cause a fire and get us better acquainted with the other ghosts.

Saturday evening, we arrived home to discover the power was down again. Vicki voice-mailed the news to Jeff on Sunday, emphasizing there was no emergency, just darkness. 


Wrap Up 
 
The closet culprit: a
miswired ceiling light.

On Tuesday, Jeff called and came early. He began exactly where he had left off and quickly found the real culprit, an improperly wired overhead light fixture in Vicki’s closet. (Yes, I know.) The bathrooms and my office area are now bright and cheery, and the apartment is happy again. (I know better.)

Thanks for stopping by.

P.S.

A version of part of this post appears on the Stage of Life website (www.stageoflife.com) in my Homeowner editor’s welcome for May.

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