Saturday, January 22, 2011

Re-Claiming Space and Re-wiring Lamps
Since moving into this house, Sandi has continually expressed a dislike for the lighting fixture above the breakfast table. It did not bother me but I was willing to change it for something better.  It has taken this long to find the fixture she wanted. She bought it some time in the fall. The box with fixture inside sat on a breakfast chair for a long time and I saw it as I was in and out of town.  Eventually, in my absence, the box was taken to my office, which becomes a household warehouse when I am gone. My first duty when returning from the road is to reclaim my office space, and deal with the stuff that has been hidden away there.
To even enter the clutter of the office this time,  I have to step over the new boxed up lighting fixture. It has to be dealt with first. Sandi wanted to at least get it out of the box and see it above the table to make sure it is what she wants before *we* go to the trouble of installing it. I was eager to get it out of my office.... 
This is the definition of a perfect storm.
I deal with electrical repairs only when Sandi is not home for one reason. Years ago, I replaced the transformer for the kitchen light. I had not bothered to turn the circuit off at the outside electrical box, just the switch on the wall was off.  I knew even at the time that is not proper procedure, but I was using extreme caution.  At a critical point with the two junction box electrical wires in each hand, Sandra walked into the kitchen and saw me carefully working atop a ladder.  My focus was on the wires, but I remember vaguely her saying, "don't you need some light up there," and out of the corner of my eye see her move to the wall switch.  Before I can say anything Sandi turned on the very light that is being repaired.  Fortunately I  let go of the wires as I yell to her.  Sparks fly through the air like the laboratory of Frankensteins castle. I am off the ladder grabbing for the switch, as blue lightening arches at the electrical box.  That is why I prefer to do electrical work alone, but I am not sure I will even have to wire this new lamp up before Sandi gets home... she just wants to see what it looks like. 
I should have known that it was not a matter of taking something out of its box and holding it up. The box was flat and the fixture round and long. Some *assembly*, as it says on the box, is required. To be honest, it was in 20 different pieces, and not so much a light fixture as the "kit" to build a light fixture. I wrongly figured the tricky part of this lamp was connecting it to the electrical I looked at this mechanical jigsaw puzzle, electricity was the farthest thing from my mind.
However, I was now committed. It was the first step to get back into the office. If you have ever dealt with a lamp or light fixture you know, it is all about the wiring. The wires have to thread through various other parts like tubes and face plates sockets, mountings and in this case a five foot length of chain. And these parts have to face the right direction since they interact with screw threads.  My mechanical sense, if I have one, said to me...get the wiring all done right the first time and the rest will be smooth. A truer statement there can not be, but the devil is in the definition of "right the first time."  My first "right" time took me a about an hour.

Cutting to the chase. After a couple of days we have a new light fixture with the right size bulb, hung to the right height, working from the correct switch with all the covers and trim pieces turned in the right direction and in their place. During the two days, I completely rewired, re-strung and threaded three wires through all the parts of the lamp from the ceiling junction box to the bulb socket, 8 different times.  One re-wire was necessary to remove a single link of chain. Although I cut my time to 45 minutes it was still,  EIGHT separate, complicated, starting from scratch, page one do-overs, and at the same time avoiding accidental electrocution by thoughtful family members.  It became a force 12 storm. 
Only my wife, my sister and my brother will understand the way I normally deal with this sort of life episode. Simply put, I deal with such problems in a dramatically over the top burst of hopeless anger and  depression. Sometimes resulting in physical violence directed toward the innocent tool.  I seem to think that desperate and complete admission of failure is the first step to completing any physical project.   
But... After the third do-over instead of rage I burst into laughter. It became a real life, slap-stick three-stooges adventure. Suddenly I was seeing my life as a game show. I was both contestant and audience. To win the prize I needed to assemble a working lamp from multiple enigmatic parts before Sandi gets home. But of course to make it funny it has to be as difficult as possible.
Between discoveries that the smallest piece of the lamp is turned the wrong direction and the entire wiring must be done again,  I keep hitting my head on the new light because I am not used to it being there.  This running joke takes five blows to the noggin before I can remember the new lamp is there and avoid it. But for some reason every bump and every acknowledgment that the job had to be redone struck me funny. It was a very new experience.  

I don't know if my attitude toward every project will be changed to laughter, or if this was an isolated event.  I vote for a revelation rebellion for change and to always see the humor in such laborious tasks. 
As you were,


Anonymous said...

How many ventriloquists does it take...?


Bob Baker

Roomie said...

Can you see us smiling? You are truly one funny guy....
Carry on,

Bob Conrad said...

Every year before Christmas my office becomes Santa's storage room, and I can hardly wait for Christmas Eve to get my office back. By the way how many ventriloquists does it take?