A shocking business

Some recent repairs that we had done on our home, coupled with Henry’s recent post “Build” led me to recall an odd event that occurred in my home some years ago.

We were new in the city of Omaha, and owned a home for the very first time (more accurately, held a mortgage). In the course of having the house inspected prior to purchasing it, the inspector had recommended adding GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) electric receptacles in our kitchen, which are supposed to reduce the risk of fire hazards.

Being Mr. Dr. Safety, I decided that this was a prudent thing to do. So, not knowing anyone in Omaha who could recommend a reputable electrician, and not wanting to fry myself in the process of do-it-yourself, I opened the Yellow Pages and plucked out a name and number. I soon had an appointment scheduled for an electrician to come and do the job.

Being a male feminist who shares the duties of staying home from work for such events (and shuns “beauty pageants”), I packed off my spouse and kids to school and work, and awaited the arrival of the electrician. He soon arrived, with a rather dilipidated white truck that had obviously seen better years–perhaps better decades.

The electrician came into the kitchen, and was quick to spot the problem as soon as I pointed it out. He moved to the left of the existing socket, and then to the right. He nodded his head slowly. I thought that he would go down on his knees, like a golfer lining up that perfect putt, but he spared me that image. Instead he went back to his truck and brought his tools along with the GFCI receptacle.

Now, normally when I am entertaining workpersons in my home, I bring my laptop down from my second floor home office to the kitchen table where I can keep an eye on what’s happening. However, in this case I had some ill feeling that I had better keep an even closer eye on the events in my kitchen.

The electrician busied himself undoing the screws from the receptacle to be replaced, and then began to unscrew the attached wires. I asked, rather politely–not wanting to offend the electrician’s expertise– “Don’t you want me to close the circuit on the breaker board?”

He looked at me the way a teacher looks at a failing-but-trying student: “I’m an electrician–don’t worry, I’ve done this hundreds of times.” Based on the appearance of his vehicle, I tried not to doubt him.

I was still watching as he began to attach the new GFCI receptacle, when suddenly there was a tremendous popping/crackling noise, and the electrician was flung clear across our kitchen where he became briefly intimate with our refrigerator. I was shaken, and rather shaky as I helped him up, asking him if he was okay. He brushed off his pants, looked at me and said, “Yeah, I’m fine. It’s no big deal. Happens to me all the time.”

Needless to say, I later made a big “X” on his Yellow Page advertisement, noting: “Don’t call him–don’t want him killed-in-action.”

From then on, through recommendations only–research is important in everyday life too!

About Steve Caplan

I am a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska where I mentor a group of about 10 students, postdoctoral fellows and researchers working on endocytic protein trafficking. My first lablit novel, "Matter Over Mind," is about a biomedical researcher seeking tenure and struggling to overcome the consequences of growing up with a parent suffering from bipolar disorder. Lablit novel #2, "Welcome Home, Sir," published by Anaphora Literary Press, deals with a hypochondriac principal investigator whose service in the army and post-traumatic stress disorder actually prepare him well for academic, but not personal success. Novel #3, "A Degree of Betrayal," is an academic murder mystery that is now in press! All views expressed are my own, of course--after all, I hate advertising. http://www.stevecaplan.net
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4 Responses to A shocking business

  1. nico says:

    A wonderful candidate for the Darwin award.

  2. MGG says:

    Good story, ‘shocking’ indeed!
    You described his truck as dilapidated, what about the electrician? Rather interesting that you didn’t describe him…Was he old too?

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