Bzzzzzzt

May. 11th, 2006 11:21 pm
tmcg: (scream)
[personal profile] tmcg

I have this profoundly ugly chandelier in the dining room. It was there when I moved in, and stayed on the "replace this someday" list. It got bumped up on the list when a lightbulb broke off in it at the base (I tried the potato thing and other suggestions, couldn't get the base out of there) and I stopped using it and taped the wall switch down. But there were a lot of things still above it on the list, and we needed light in there, so we clipped a clip-on light to it. The cord, with an in-cord on/off switch, ran a few feet over to the nearest bookcase, hooked over that, and went into an extension cord plugged into an outlet at the foot of that wall.

It was an old clip-on light we had lying around, probably from the nineteen-eighties. I said it made the house into a Booth house (which it already is in other ways, but that capped it), thinking of the Booth cartoons with the pit bull scratching away at itself on the floor and junk all over and a bare bulb hanging by a thread of cord from a hook in the ceiling over a rickety old table. It was an ongoing joke. I had an electrician in a couple of months ago to do some things I considered more important than replacing that chandelier (putting GFI outlets above the last floodline in the basement, sealing up the two outlets that the renovation didn't replace, replacing old outlets with grounded outlets in the downstairs unit, and so on), and have only just started thinking about having him back to do the other jobs on the electrical list.

I went to turn that light on yesterday--which required getting up on tiptoes, face less than a foot from the hanging chandelier--and the moment I dialed the switch, there was a pop and a bzzzzt and a spectacular cascade of sparks off the chandelier. Pretty much right in my face. I yelled "Shit!" and ducked away. I thought crap blanket smother fireextinguisher{mental image of nearest one}nowon'thelp catsranawaygood as I groped for the wall. I was thinking in that second that it was the chandelier, that somehow that had gotten switched on, but in the next second was realizing that it was the clip-on light, pretty much as I was saying "Where the fuck is that thing plugged in?" and groping down the wall to the outlet to yank the extension cord out.

The cord of the clip-on light had burned right through. There are book boxes under where it fell, and under where all the sparkage was, on the dining-room table, are piles of paper. If that cord had burned through while it was on unattended, well, I shudder to think.

It left an extraordinary and toxic smell, three very freaked-out cats, and me doing a survey of what other items around the place might have Very Old Cords. All the extension cords are new. There's only one appliance--a lamp called Mo Or Maybe Joe, one of a set of profoundly ugly table lamps my dad, IIRC, salvaged from someone's garbage in the nineteen-sixties--and I've retired it until I can rewire it. (Which I'm going to do, along with Joe Or Maybe Mo, who hasn't worked in years and has been sitting down in the basement. I love Mo and Joe [or Joe and Mo; we don't know]. They're bad knockoffs of some kind of African or South Pacific statue or totem, and appear to be at least thirty percent pubic hair. Their idiosyncratic ugliness, unlike the boring ugliness of the chandelier, endears them to me; plus, they've been part of the family for as long as I can remember.)

Over the past few months I've been replacing outlets and surge protectors and so on, making sure everything's up to spec, but man, the things you overlook. Don't do this.



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