Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Shock the Monkey, Part 9

So once we get tired of staring at the depressingly collapsed carport, we wander back into the house. I’m extremely fed up at this point, done with Mother Nature and life in general. Our little contractor guy still hasn’t called back, so it’s time to pull out the phonebooks, scour websites, and find somebody else.

I hate trying to find service people to work on the house. Let me make that very clear. I’d rather shove my face in a vat of boiling acid.

But anyway, after much bickering and hair-pulling, we settle on a company that seems to have the least irritating combination of crappy yellow-pages layout and sappy website crammed with obviously-fake client testimonials from people that probably don’t exist. (Seriously, what real person would say “ABC Company saved my life! I’m naming my next child after them!” Please.)

Terry calls them. Sure, they can come out today. No problem, we love you. Oh, but it’s going to cost you three times the normal rate because it’s the weekend. That okay?

We have a quick sidebar and decide that it’s most definitely NOT okay. Yes, I want this done, and I would prefer that it be done now. But if that damn power line hasn’t snapped after two days of pressure, it just might make it another two days. So Terry makes the appointment for Monday morning, while I sit beside him all tragic and pale, a single tear sliding down my anguished cheek. Life, most assuredly, sucks.

The next 48 hours are something of a blur. The constant tension of waiting for the house to explode has taken its toll. My nerves are more frayed than something Hannah Montana would wear to an awards ceremony. I am no longer capable of uttering complete sentences. I just grunt and point.

Finally, Monday morning arrives. Terry has whisked his way to work, leaving me to deal with the electrician who will peruse our domicile and then most likely proffer a cost estimate that exceeds the entire budget of a third-world country. I drink a gallon of coffee to fortify myself for the challenge ahead.

Surprisingly, there’s a knock on the front door right at the given appointment time. Automatically, I feel the first stirrings of emotional attachment to this company, because nobody EVER shows up when they swear that they will. Opening said portal, I find a very well-groomed and spotlessly-clean professional, instead of the standard-issue ex-con in rumpled and stained attire, reeking of questionable activities from the previous night.

I might possibly be in love, and we’ve only known each other for 7 seconds.

So we chit-chat for a bit, and then tromp around the side of the house, fighting through the snow to the backyard. As we trudge along, conversing, it’s clear that this man is actually intelligent and has a great personality. It’s so refreshing after some of the Neanderthals we have dealt with in the past. I’m actually feeling a little inspired that there might be light at the end of the tunnel. Then my ray of sunshine is cruelly extinguished as we arrive at the impact point.

He takes a quick survey, and then turns to me in astonishment: “You guys actually still have power?"

“Um, yes, we do. The power is messed up, but it’s working."

He turns back around for another review. “Your ground has been pulled.” Then he points at this metal thing that is hanging sadly from the roof of the storage shed situated between the house and the pole in the alley.

I know that electricity has to be grounded, but that’s all I know. “What does this mean?"

He turns back to me. “The house is alive. There’s a secondary ground that they attach to your plumbing, but that doesn’t take care of all of it."

Okay, wait. This is too much information. Let’s break it down. “What do you mean, the plumbing? It’s in the pipes?"

“Yeah. The pipes."

“Soooo…. That would explain why I got shocked in the shower?"

He laughs, finding this very entertaining. “Yeah, man. You’re gonna get a zap."

Our budding relationship is over. I no longer love him. It’s not FUNNY that I almost died. “And you said the secondary ground doesn’t take care of all of it?"

“Yeah, with the main ground gone, the only thing slowing the current are all the grounds that should be in all your sockets and switches. So the current is circling the house, hitting these grounds, but it’s not enough to stop it."

I think I may have wet myself at that point. “So any time we turn on a light…"

“You could get shocked. Or when you touch things attached to the plumbing. Or when you-"

Okay, that’s enough. “What needs to be done? How do we fix this?"

He surveys a bit more, then “Well, we’ve got to replace your meter, and the weather guard, and the ground, and-"

I don’t even know what all that means, so I focus on the important thing. “How much?"

“Two thousand."

Part of me dies inside. But he’s not done.

“And because of the age of the house, we’re required to put in a shut-off valve on this wall here. You don’t have one. That’s another thousand."

Three thousand dollars. Because some stupid tree branch fell. And it’s not even our tree. It’s the neighbor’s tree. And he hasn’t been home this whole time, and therefore has not shared in the misery. I hate him.

The electrician looks at me. “So, you want us to do the work? We have to pull a permit, which means I can‘t do it until tomorrow, but then it should only take a couple hours."

What the hell do you do in situations like this? We could maybe find somebody else to do it cheaper. But that’s another day for an estimate, and another day to get it fixed. I’m so done with this. I just want to be able to pee without getting thrown off the toilet. I want my life back. I’ll find the three thousand somewhere, even if I have to whore out what’s left of my aging body. Or maybe Terry could whore it. He’s more limber than me.

“Okay, let’s do it."

He grins. “Great. I’ll need half up front."


So we march into the house so I can get my checkbook. While I’m painfully filling out the check (it actually hurts to be writing so many numbers), the electrician is fiddling with an XBOX game that I had left on the kitchen table. He’s very stoked about the discovery, and is trying to bond even further by babbling about video games. “What’s the best one you played?"

I ignore that. We are no longer compatible, the love is over. We didn’t have a May-December romance. We barely had an 8am to 9am romance. I feel cheap and used. “Here’s your check."

He pockets the piece of paper quickly. “So, I’ll see you in the morning. Do I need to call first?"

“Not unless you aren’t going to be here on time.” See, I’m already the bitter ex-girlfriend, full of venom and spite. Relationships are complicated, yes?

He leaves.

I immediately call Terry at his work. “Three. Thousand. DOLLARS!"

“Well, we have to do it."

Don’t be complacent and sympathetic, this is not right and not our fault. Snow has ruined our lives. I just want to vent and yell. And by the way, “Pick up some beer on your way home."

“Do you really think it’s a good idea to-"

“Beer. Bring it. Bye."

So the next morning, somewhat hung-over, I greet my ex-boyfriend at the door, glaring at him with puffy eyes. He couldn’t care less, he’s just here to do a job. How quickly the innocent are tossed to the side. The world is cruel and heartless. I understand why Glenn Close wanted to kill the bunny.

The electrician has some cautionary words. “The power is going to be off while I do this. And it will take a while."

Whatever. Just go.

Two minutes later, everything shuts off in the house.

I drag my ass into the bedroom, where there are lots of windows and the most natural light, and pick up the latest book that I’m reading. Interestingly enough, this book is by Stephen King, entitled “Under The Dome”. It’s about people surviving in an unusual situation that they can’t control. How fitting. Stephen King gets me. Nobody else does.

Three hours later, as I’m nodding off in my sanctuary on the bed, the power snaps on. A few minutes after that, the heater kicks in as well, but it doesn’t dim the lights. Has the madness finally stopped?

The electrician knocks on the front door. All is well. Come take a look.

More trudging through the snow, back to the scene of the crime. We now have a shiny new weather guard standing proudly on the roof, there’s a couple fancy boxes on the side of the house, and the power line is high in the air where it belongs. Hurray. Impending death no longer lurks on the ground.

Back through the snow and into the house. I fill out a second painful check while the electrician fiddles with a box of Scentsy candles on the kitchen table. (“Your wife sell this?” Clearly, his gaydar is not functioning very well, despite the Madonna shrine in the corner, but I don’t bother to correct him. “Uh, no, my sister does that.”) I hand him the check, there’s some more meaningless chatter, and then he’s gone.

So I go around the house, basically turning on everything that requires electrical current. There are no surging explosions or contact injuries. Good. As a final test, I hop in the shower, let myself get soaked, and then cautiously reach for the faucet. Nothing. No sensation other than the hardness of innocent metal. Hallelujah.

I just stand there for a while, letting the hot water work its magic. It’s going to be a long time before I feel clean again…

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