The Ecphorizer

Bill Harvey

Issue #53 (January 1986)

Placating the gods of electricity

The other day I was talking to a friend, and the subject of electricity came up. Now I don't know about you, but I've had some pretty radical experiences with electricity. I had a few things to say on the subject.

[quoteright]I had some things to say about plugs, and how to keep them

...go to your hardware store and buy a virgin receptacle.

plugged in, and how they have a will and a mind of their own, and how they delight in making life as awkward and as difficult as possible. I also made mention of the fact that threatening to pull the main circuit breaker has worked for me in the past. All that you have to do is address the nearest electrical receptacle in a loud and firm voice, and make mention of the fact that unless things straighten out to your satisfaction (with regard to electrical outlets) you're going to pull the main breaker. This all has to do with the use of electricity. God forbid that you should have to do any actual electrical wiring.

The actual fact is that electricity is only a theory, and is not to be trusted under any circumstances.

If you're going to do any wiring, several things must be attended to first. At least four days before undertaking any electrical wiring job, proper sacrifices must be made to the Gods of Electricity. There are, as you may know, four Gods of Electricity. They are Volts, Watts, Amps, and Gotcha.

Volts, Watts, and Amps are fairly benevolent gods, and are also the most visible. They're in charge of making electrical things work. Gotcha, on the other hand, is a very vindictive god, but you're not likely to encounter him (her?) unless you're foolhardy enough to start messing with wiring and stuff like that.

As to the proper sacrifice, breaking a few light bulbs in the names of the four gods will suffice. If you're undertaking a particularly big job, try a few four-foot or even six-foot fluorescent tubes. For a major undertaking, it's necessary to go to your hardware store and buy a virgin receptacle. Make absolutely sure that it's never been plugged into, and take it home. After calling upon the gods to bless your project, smash that receptacle with a very large hammer. This may seem, at first glance, to be a terrible waste, but you'll be glad at a later time that you made this sacrifice.

Although this sacrifice is made in the name of all four gods, it is primarily aimed at Gotcha. The others, as previously mentioned, are the ones in charge of making things work. They're the ones who see to it that the little electricity critters do what's required of them. For example, if you turn on a light, Volts, Watts, and Amps see to it that the electricity critters go to the bulb and immediately turn on their flashlights, shining them on the inside of the bulb, thus making light so that you can read.

If you turn on a drill, say, all of the critters line up on the treadmill and start the drill turning. If it's an electric heater that you want to run, these three see to it that the critters all line up on the wires inside the heater (the heating element) and light a match. Voila, warmth.

Now, on the surface of it, these may seem like fairly simple tasks, but in reality they're not so simple as they sound. For example, what if the critters went to a light bulb and started on a treadmill? Not only would you not have light, but your light bulb would unscrew itself. I've personally seen a case where the critters went to my drill and lit matches instead of going on the treadmill. I had to buy a new drill and my garage smelled like burned plastic for weeks.

It's usually in cases of misdirected critters that you'll encounter the worst of the bunch, Gotcha. He's there for one reason and one reason only. He's out to hurt you. He's got lots of ways to do that, too.

He's the one who loops an extension cord where you'll be most likely to trip over it. He's the one who will see to it that molten plastic or solder will drip on your most vulnerable parts, if you happen to be holding that drill when the critters light matches instead of treadmilling. He's also the one who reduces your manly, hairy, body (or, womanly, curved, body) to a mass of quivering jelly by shooting massive amounts of electricity through it, usually with very little provocation. He's not above waiting until you're hanging by three fingernails and two toes, perched over your Christmas tree on a rickety ladder, to let you know that the string of lights clenched between your teeth is plugged in after all.

Nope. If you're going to be doing any electrical work, break three light bulbs, three fluorescent tubes, kill a virgin receptacle, and make proper mumbo jumbo. Then, go and turn off the main circuit breaker. After that, take a high powered rifle with a telescopic sight to the end of your street and shoot down the power lines. You might shoot out a few transformers for good measure.

Next, send a very irate letter to the electric power people, demanding that they shut down all power in the state while you're doing your electrical work. Put on a pair of rubber socks, some rubber shoes and a pair of rubber boots. A pair of heavy rubber gloves will complete your ensemble.

Now, you're ready. Pitch in!

If you've done all of the above things, there may be as much as a fifty-fifty chance that Gotcha won't getcha. 

Essayist BILL HARVEY started out demanding royalties for his contributions to this magazine. For a while we were sending him occasional postage stamps, until we ran out. Now he has finally decided to settle for mere immortality.

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