Been There, Done That: An electrical whodunit

It started out like any other Friday morning. The clock went off, I hit the snooze button until it was time I had to get up and off we went. Sort of. I checked to make sure the alarm was actually off so it didn’t scare the bejeezus out of our Beagle Boy Cletus if it went off and the lights were off on the clock.

That’s weird, but the clock is from the 80s — it can’t last forever. When I went to turn on the light on the dresser, it didn’t come on. The bulb blew and the clock died just that fast? There’s no such thing as a coincidence. Apparently, we tripped a breaker.

Dave checked the panel and sure enough, one was tripped. He flipped it back on and an orange light came on. Uh oh, what’s that mean? It means we flip it back off and call the electrician. We pay monthly for extra insurance to pay for unexpected issues like this.

The electrician is coming Monday. Awesome. Except we have no power to the majority of our bedroom. The TV works, but that’s it. No clock, no lights, no electric blanket and no fans.

We don’t need the clock because it’s the weekend. We have all kinds of battery-powered light sources since the last whole house power outage.

We can manage to find our socks and skivvies ok and we have extra blankets to pile on so we don’t freeze, but no fans? Dave and I can’t sleep with no fans running. So I rigged up an extension cord from the hall to power his fan (the bigger one) and his side of the electric blanket. Hillbillies can survive.

Our sleeping issues were solved, but we had way bigger problems. In front of the breaker box in the utility room is a large shelving unit about 3 ½ feet wide by 4 ½ feet tall with four shelves. That’s where I keep all of our specialty kitchen stuff, like the air fryer, regular fryer, crockpots, George Foreman grill, etc., along with cleaning supplies, gardening things, the big roaster and lots more.

We can reach over the top of the shelf to the breaker box to flip the occasional switch, but that whole thing’s got to go before the electrician gets here. And the bigger problem is go where? I had enough trouble getting rid of the Christmas stuff.

So, I stashed as much as I could behind the washer and dryer and put appliances on every flat surface I could find on the ground floor of the house. I filled a giant tote and shoved it in the shoe closet. Eventually, I was able to slide the empty shelf over to the other side of the room. Mission accomplished.

Next up was making sure all the outlets in our bedroom were accessible for the electrician. That meant taking out all the Christmas stuff I had shoved behind our bed the previous weekend. Are you kidding me? Sadly, no. Everything but the tree had to come back out of there. And again, the question — go where with it? On the floor of the football room for right now, I guess.

When electrician Joe arrived on Monday morning, he flipped the breaker back on (no orange light this time) and we tried to recreate what tripped it in the first place. To no avail. We had all three lights on, the radio blaring on the clock, both sides of the electric blanket cranked up and the fans on high, threatening to blow the dog off the bed. And nothing happened.

Well of course it didn’t. Joe was standing right there. Did you ever have your car make that funny noise in front of the mechanic? Of course not, it never happens.

So he spent a good part of the morning turning off and unplugging one thing at a time, trying to isolate the problem. Yeah, that didn’t work. Joe finally focused on the lamp on the dresser. The bulb was a little loose and so was the part that you screw the bulb into. He said it could have arced and tripped the breaker. He said we should get a new lamp.

So Dave and I went shopping, picking up three lamps. Then we spent the afternoon swapping out bulbs, shades and lamp locations. We got matching lamps for the end tables in the living room. We used the shade from the bedroom lamp (which we pitched) on the little lamp from the utility room – a perfect match and now that resides on the newer dresser/table in the living room. The fringey shade reminds of the leg lamp in “The Christmas Story.” One of the former living room lamps is no longer obstructing the view from the living room to the kitchen and vice versa and resides in the utility room.

The other living room lamp is in the hall outside our bedroom. Dave’s former nightstand with the built-in lamp went to the end of the driveway. He got a new lamp that’s easy to turn on and off from the bed. The lamp on our dresser is our former hallway lamp with a bulb that could wake the dead. We’ll be able to find our unmentionables now.

On his way out, Joe said if the breaker trips again, take a video of the orange light because the blips and breaks mean something. Yeah, I’ll be sure to let you know if the breaker sends out an SOS.

Laura Nethken
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