Ol’ Sparky

I have not always basked in the glory of being a do-it-yourselfer, nor have I always equated myself with hot shot DIY Kings such as Bob Vila or Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor. Let me take you back to a time when everyone knew my name, everyone at the local ER that is. 

Believe it or not, I was not born with the awesome skills of being able to frame a doorway or the knowledge to plumb a new water heater. I had to learn. 

You, the reader, might ask, “How do you learn these invaluable skills?” 

Some people spend years (and thousands of dollars) in technical trade schools. These are great schools that teach things like workplace safety, personal safety, the correct way to accomplish some complicated task and even how to accurately determine what tools/materials may be needed to finish a job. All unnecessary if you ask me. 

I have always been a bit more hands-on than that. By “hands-on” what I really mean is “learn-as-you-go.” Now some people argue that this is not the best way to learn a new skill as it may be unsafe or inefficient. Slow your roll. I say this is the BEST way to learn a new skill! 

Think about this for a moment: If I have a boring book or video telling me to turn the electrical breakers off at the breaker box BEFORE I attempt replacing a plug, I may or may not remember this helpful tip. But I assure you (and I speak from experience here) that if I do forget to shut the breaker off, I will likely get a healthy dose of 120V worth of power juice coursing through my body (it sure tickles, too), leaving me with a nervous tic that would rival Tourette’s (no offense aimed at those lovely folks)! Luckily, this tic only lasted for a few seconds, each time. Moral of this story is “Turn the damn breakers off!” I have wisened up enough to take pride in my trial-by-error ways, but I have also learned how not to be stupid!

I reluctantly recall a time that we had just moved into our first home. Jamie and I had ambition. I did not like the almond color of the light switches and plug receptacles. So that had to be changed. I started with a positive attitude, a few hand tools and a shit-ton of bright white outlets and cover plates. Jamie walked in to the living room just as I was removing the first cover plate. 

Jamie: Did you turn the breaker off?”

Me: I don’t need to. See this screw driver? (I hold it up for her skeptical inspection) It has a solid plastic handle. (I carefully place the tip on the screw holding the wire to the side of the outlet) As long as I don’t slip off the scr-  

Remember earlier when I mentioned my experience with getting zapped? Imagine tiny-baby lightning bolts flowing through your body. An explosion of sparks, a flash of light and a scorched screw driver. These are the things I remember. 

Jamie: (panic building) “Are you okay?”

Me: I’m fine!” But I wasn’t fine. I had a bruised ego. And it was rapidly shrinking. 

Jamie: (I told you so voice) “Now are you going to turn the fucking breakers off?”

Me: (Stomping off to the back of the house) “Well I suppose so!”

Another time that I was lucky enough to “see the light” was during a bathroom remodel. This was a very impromptu remodel that started with my wife hosting one of those jewelry parties. 

You know the type where women gather, get drunk and spend WAAAAY too much money for costume jewelry. That’s just in the first 15 minutes! The other three hours are spent gossiping and shit-talking those who were invited, but didn’t attend without a good enough reason. At least this is just my interpretation of what these parties are. I’ve never been invited to one, but I digress. 
So my wife wants the bathroom repainted due to the hideous pinks and purples that the previous owner chose. This notice was verbally delivered to me less than 24 hours before the party. 

Any sane person would have told his wife “HELL NO!” I never claimed to be sane. I learned a long time ago that if you want to live a happy life, you should live alone. Just kidding. I love you Beeba. Of course I agreed. I love a good challenge. After all, those DIY shows on cable TV make it look sooooo easy. They are all liars! 

Another one of my MANY trips to the hardware store and a few years later, I finally got started. 

After paint, new light fixture, and towel rods, I was putting the finishing touches on the all-night bathroom remodel with new outlets and light switches. I was pulling the plug out of the electrical box. Once again, the all too familiar flash of bright light, shower of sparks and tickle of flowing electricity entering my body. It’s surprising that I have no permanent nerve damage. Brain damage is another story!

Turns out this was actually not my fault, this time… The wires crammed behind the outlet had a bare spot and arced on the metal box in the wall. The funniest thing about this scenario was my 4 year old son and 6 year old daughter were watching their dad pretend to be “Handy Manny” and when the sparks began to fly, Jake lost his shit! Maggie was concerned, but Jake lost it! And when I explained that the wires had a “freaking bare spot,” Jake could not understand what a “freaking bear spot” was! 

After he calmed down, I had to explain that there were no spots containing bears in out bathroom, just some shitty wiring. 

I finished the bathroom makeover and took a well deserved nap. Jamie now files all remodel requests at least two weeks in advance. 


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