Monday, March 1, 2010

Shock the Monkey, Part 8

So we wander back into the house, fully expecting to lose power at any point. Terry gets on the horn with Oncor Energy, so while he’s dealing with that, I wander around the house in a slight daze. I don’t like it when things happen to my house, especially costly things that also involve potential discomfort. It makes me cranky and I want to hurt people.

Just then the heater kicks on, and all the lights in the house dim. Not one of those brief things that sometimes happens in older homes, where there’s a slight power adjustment when a major appliance starts sucking up juice, and then everything goes back to normal. Nope, the lights are staying dim, almost as if we are now operating on emergency power. For some reason, the name “Titanic” flitters through my mind. Oh boy.

Terry hangs up with Oncor. “Well, they issued a ticket, but since we still have power, we’re on the bottom of the list."

Sort of expected that. “Did you tell them that the power lines are basically on the ground?"

He pauses for a second, debating whether or not he should be offended that I apparently think he’s an idiot. Of course he told them. It now might be necessary to have an argument and say hateful things. I glare back at him with an expression that, although a heated exchange of bitter accusations might prove entertaining in other circumstances, right now I am just trying to confirm that Oncor understands that we might be fried alive at any second.

He decides to let it go. “I told them. They said not to go anywhere near the tree."

I’m not planning on going anywhere near the backyard. “Okay, so we just have to wait for somebody to show up."

And wait we did. We knew nobody would be out until at least the morning, since the nightly news had indicated that half the city was without power. We might not see a technician until next week. Unless, of course, the power lines finally snapped and the entire neighborhood burned to the ground. Then they might roll a truck a little sooner.

So we just went to bed. Why sit around and watch the lights dim just so you can be reminded that something is freakishly wrong with the electricity flowing through the house? Besides, since it was very possible that we might have to suddenly flee the house at any moment, clutching cherished pictures of relatives and Granny’s china, we needed to get some rest.

We woke up the next morning, which was nice and all, since it meant that we hadn’t roasted in our beds during the night. Now we had a full day ahead of us wherein we could experience the supreme joy of sitting around and waiting for someone who probably wasn’t going to show up. This is truly a life-affirming experience.

It wasn’t too bad, though, as long as you didn’t dwell on the potential for power-line snappage at any given second. I worked on my blogs, Terry did something on Facebook that required hundreds of mouse clicks, and Scotch the cat terrorized a cotton ball. Take the electrical business out of the equation, and you had a fairly typical day.

Then something happened in the late afternoon that shoved the electricity right back to center stage.

I decided to take a shower, usually a rather mundane activity of little interest. This time was a bit different. I stepped into the spray for the initial soaking, decided the water was a tad warm, wiped the water out of my eyes so I could see better, and reached for the faucet handle to up the cold water a bit. When I touched the metal, a tingly spasm raced up my arm and my hand involuntary jerked away from the handle.

What was THAT? At first, I was more confused than concerned. Had I just imagined the sensation? After all, I’m getting older. I’ve reached that point where, on an almost daily basis, you wake up to find that yet another part of your body doesn’t work the way it used to in years past. So I gripped the handle again, a little tighter, and watched in stunned amazement as my hand actually vibrated and that unpleasant sensation coursed through my arm again.

There was live electricity coming into the shower. Holy cow.

I threw open the shower door and leaped out. “Terry! Come here!"

He stops planting virtual crops and races in my direction. “What’s going on? Why are you yelling?"

“I just got shocked in the shower. There is current in the water!"

He blinked at me, not certain if I was just messing with him or if I had fallen and banged my head on the tile floor.

“I’m serious. I know that feeling. That’s what it feels like when you change a socket plate and the screwdriver touches the wires.” (Yes, I know, you’re supposed to cut the power before you do such a thing, but nobody does, right?)

Terry looked like he might possibly have some faith in my story, but there was a considerable reality checkpoint to reach. How could there be current in the shower if there was nothing electrical in there?

I didn’t have any idea how it was happening, but I certainly didn’t like it. How could one conceivably remain sane if there was indeed voltage in the household water, with the threat of electrocution every time we got a drink of water or flushed the toilet? This was no way to live. “Can you call Oncor and see where we’re at? We’ve got to get this fixed.” He raced off to grab a phone.

I stood there for a second, glaring at the evil shower where the water was still running and steam was billowing. Now that I’d had a few seconds to calm down, I realized that the water itself couldn’t be hazardous, it had to be just the faucet. Somehow. So I hopped back in the shower, took the quickest shower of my life lasting roughly 17 seconds and only involving the critical parts, then wrapped my hand in a towel before shutting off the faucet. No shock that time.

I got dressed and joined Terry, who had an unpleasant update from Oncor Energy. They wouldn’t be rolling a truck at all, as they had now decided that the immediate issue was not theirs. The damaged weather guard (the mangled pipe sticking out of the roof, got it?) was the responsibility of the home owner. We need to call an electrician, there’s nothing they can do. Have a nice day. If you’d like to hear about our next rate hike, please press 2.

Now we’re back at square one again. We’ve wasted 24 hours waiting on the wrong people to not show up. Terrific. Terry gets back on the phone and leaves a message with a contractor that we’ve used a few times before (such as the soul-deadening experience we had when the plumbing backed up). But this guy is not real speedy with returning calls, and by now it’s a Friday evening. We’ll give him until morning to get back with us.

So we spend another restless night, tossing and turning and racing to the window every time we hear an odd noise, convinced that more damage had befallen the house or that something was on fire. Such a situation does not make one a happy camper. And it may have just been nerves, but at times I swore I could hear the electricity throbbing oddly, like the pulse of a stealthy predator ready to snatch me in the dark if I didn’t keep up my guard.

Morning finally breaks, but the black bird hasn’t spoken and there’s certainly not any praising or singing. Just the demoralizing realization that there are no assistance-offering messages on our voice mail. We are adrift and alone in the house of killer showers.

Terry wants to give the contractor a few more hours to respond. He’s a nice guy and he’s cheap. He’s just a little slow. Fine. We’ll wait some more. But let’s do something. This sitting around and hoping is sending me over the edge. So we traipse outside and start knocking snow off some of the bushes and smaller trees. It may be too late to save some of them, but it’s worth a try and it keeps my mind occupied.

This tree-saving activity is loads of fun and I highly recommend it. There’s nothing quite as refreshing as clawing your way through snow drifts, whacking at solid chunks of resistant snow, then finally succeeding in breaking the damn things up which then results in snow getting under your clothing and newly-liberated tree limbs springing up and slicing open your face. Expletives filled the air.

A bit later, as I’m standing on the back patio for a quick smoke break, just glancing around the yard and trying to remember what it looked like when things were green, I notice that the carport looks a little odd. At first, it doesn’t quite register, just this unease about something. Then it hits me. The roof of the carport is bowing downward slightly.

It’s not too bad, and I’m not even sure that it didn’t look like that before the snowstorm. As I’m debating on whether or not I should pursue this a little further, Terry arrives on the patio, brushing snow off his jacket. “I was talking to Russell earlier (a friend at his work) and he asked how our carport was doing."

Okay, first, it was a little odd that we were on the same wavelength without even speaking. (Maybe the renegade electricity on the property was causing a spike in psychic activity?) And second, “What does Russell know about carports that would lead him to ask that question?"

“He says it’s on the news. They’re falling down all over the city."

Hmm. Gee, maybe you could have mentioned that right after you talked to Russell? Because it hadn’t even crossed my mind to worry about the carport, that thing has done fine in quite a number of hellacious summer storms, with trees toppling in the neighborhood while the little stand-alone carport remained unaffected, silent but strong. But if they’re falling down in other parts of Dallas...

We pause for a few minutes, gazing upon the carport. You know what? That thing really is bowing. Time for action. “We need to move the cars. Just to be safe."

So Terry runs in the house to get our keys, then runs back out and zips both cars out into the turn-around of the driveway. Mission accomplished, we head back into the house. There’s just enough time for me to walk to our office, sit down at my desk, and nudge the mouse so the latest screen-saver on my PC vanishes.
There’s a tremendous crash in the backyard.

You’re kidding me. We both thunder onto the patio, knowing full well what we’re going to see, but still stunned when we see it. The middle of the carport is now on the cement, creating a giant M, like a crazed, techno version of a Sesame Street scene.

A foot of snow had been piled on that thing for two days with no issues. Yet less than five minutes after Terry moved the cars, the carport is now a twisted wreck.

I swivel around in the opposite direction and look at the house. A foot of snow has been on THAT thing for two days. What kind of pressure is going on there? We already have psychotic electricity running amok, and now there’s the realization that not just tree limbs but entire structures can fall down with snow this heavy.

I am SO gonna need a sleeping pill tonight.

Click Here to Read the Next Entry in This Series.

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