Fried Daddy

by Steely Dad on December 30, 2008

Last night (oh, at about 11 PM) I decided to install a dimmer switch for the recessed lighting in the kitchen (it feels like a tanning booth when they are on full blast). It couldn’t wait until the next day, oh nooooooooooo. It had to be done last night. Have I ever installed a dimmer switch, you might ask. Never. Did I know what the hell I was doing? Not in the least. But I’m a pretty handy guy, I tell myself.  I can do it. Plus, I want to impress my wife hoping that my electrical work will “turn on” her love switch.  Get it?

So I read the directions (usually a pretty good idea) and follow it step-by-step, first by turning off the breaker switch to the lighting to prevent electrical shock. This is a very CRITICAL step, perhaps the most important of all the steps. That in itself was like deciphering an ancient treasure map to find which breaker switch went to which lighting terminal. OK, no problem, I figure out which breaker switch and turn it off without turning off ALL the electrical units in the house. Going well so far. Then I open up the switch plate to reveal a sight that reminds me of Medusa’s lovely hairdo only these weren’t snakes but something far more dangerous…HOT WIRES! OK, no problem. I figure out the hots and the ground. I even have to use the ol’ gray matter and figure out how to wire the ground wire. They didn’t teach me this in junior high woodshop. So I get it hooked up, I’m fairly (perhaps 65%) certain that I won’t blow the place up when I turn on the breaker. I switch the breaker back on and slowly walk back to the kitchen. And then, the first test. I touch the dimmer switch and to my amazement (perhaps disbelief), there was light. And it was good. I played with my new toy like a kid on Christmas day, my chest heaving with pride and joy. I turned the switch all the way to the brightest and then with a single touch of my sweaty finger, I turned the lights all the way down, before my patient wife was now completely impatient with me and yelling at me to stop playing with the lights (hadn’t heard that since I was, oh, say, three years of age). I’m asking her, “Huh, see, huh, see.  What do you think? That’s 1,000% better.” She acknowledges me with a look that has more of a “yea, yea, you’re great, can we eat now?” tone than “I’m so impressed, honey.”

Alright, I made it through the hard part now all I have to do is push the switch unit back into its coffin of drywall, screw in the switch plate and I’m drinking a celebratory libation. I didn’t think that there was any chance that I would touch any of these wires as I’m just putting on the switch plate so I didn’t bother to go back and turn off the breaker. Bad idea. Just as I’m pushing the wires back into the hole, I must have accidentally touched one and boy, did I learn the reason why they call these wires “hot!” I jumped 6 feet into the air like Michael Jordan on a slam dunk. My arm felt limp like one of those big tubes of Kosher salami hanging in a deli. I’m jumping up and down and I think I blacked out but I don’t remember and perhaps I was drooling and I think I also pissed myself and I vaguely remember screaming like a school girl who skinned her knee. When I finally “discharge,” I feel like a body builder who had just completed a six hour competition during which every muscle is his body was flexed beyond its natural threshold.

My memory is not completely clear during this period of extraordinary pain, however, one point that does stick out is my wife yelling at me, “You don’t touch the wires when you’re doing that,” as I’m basically on fire. Not, “are you OK, honey?” “Can I kiss it and make it better, honey?” No, I get scolded as I’m getting scalded by electrical wires. It’s like telling the driver of a car not to get into an accident as the accident is happening and they are supposed to have some choice in the matter at THIS point in time. As if the searing pain of electrical shock was not enough, my wife had to give me a few of her own zingers?

Wondering if my plan to turn on my wife’s love switch worked?  If it did, I don’t remember.

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