In the O Zone

Cal Shanley: A transformer’s out, something fell on a power line.
Danny Tripp: Are they fixing it?
Cal Shanley: In a manner of speaking.
Danny Tripp: What does that mean?
Cal Shanley: They don’t know how to fix it.
Danny Tripp: [pause] How much do I want to know about this?
Cal Shanley: As little as possible.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, “The Focus Group” (10/1/06)


One of the things I’ve been working on while GF is on her road trip (tonight she checked in from St. Louis) is cleaning things that I haven’t been able to take care of. The refrigerator is an excellent example, because it always feels like I’m shoveling against the tide on that one. For me, the fridge is a place to store fresh food and keep it that way until it’s cooked and eaten; alternatively it’s where the beer (except this week, alas) and condiments live. For GF it’s the Leftovers Graveyard. I usually make just enough for us when I cook, but when we get take-out or go to a restaurant there’s usually something left over. More often than not this gets put in the refrigerator. On paper, this is for lunch the next day or some such, but the more common outcome is that I discover that there are numerous science experiments going on in my icebox.

So Monday night I went through and got rid of all that. I didn’t even really care how old it was; if it was from a previous meal it was gone. Personally I’m impressed by the number of plastic containers I’ve recovered just from that effort.

I’ve also started on eating stuff that’s in the freezer, just to see if I can find the back of that space. Last night I pulled out a bit of lasagna I’d frozen a couple of months back, so I figured I’d eat that for dinner. Put it in a bowl and stuck it in the microwave, set it for five minutes just to get started.

When I came back, the microwave was off but the food was still frozen solid. The hell? This microwave is new; it was a Christmas gift from my mother. That’s when I realize that A) the microwave’s display is dark; and B) the lights are out in the kitchen. The breaker tripped. I go downstairs and reset the switch. Turn the microwave back on and sit with it through the first minute or so. No problem. I leave the kitchen; when I come back it’s all off again. Hm. This could take awhile.

Now, I could just reheat the lasagna in the regular oven, but that doesn’t really solve the problem. Why would the microwave suddenly be creating a problem? This didn’t happen a few weeks ago when the house still had fuses…


I go back downstairs and remove the cover panel from the circuit breaker box. Sure enough, I can see that one of the wires going into the affected breaker isn’t connected correctly. In fact, when I give it a nudge to see if it’s connected at all, it rewards me with a lovely shower of sparks. Mmmm…individual Oxygen atoms; don’t they smell nice?

Since fixing it for me means shutting off all the house’s power, it’s too late to work on this at that point using only the natural light coming through my east-facing basement window. I leave everything the way it is and go back upstairs, rigging an extension cord to a working outlet for the microwave.

This afternoon, after I got home, I went downstairs and cut the main power breakers. (I know this doesn’t kill everything in the box, but it gives me a little extra security. And you’re looking at a guy who usually changes outlets and switches without bothering to cut the power to the junction box, working with hot wires.) Popped the breaker out of place, re-attached the wire and, just for the giggles, took a minute to check all the other wires. They all appeared to be placed correctly, but I did find a couple of screws that weren’t socked down all the way.

I don’t think I’ll be calling that electrician to do any more work for me.

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