Tuesday, January 04, 2011

If you're already asleep and the lights go out, why do you have to reset the circuit breaker?

I didn't retire early last night; it was only early in relation to everyone else still at the Curmudgeon home as Christmas break winds down.

I had to work in the morning. And I had an 8:00 a.m. dentist's appointment to start off the day. But today is the last day of Long Suffering Spouse's break and she's catching up on grading and lesson planning and all the other things that good teachers do outside the classroom. So she was planning to stay up awhile. Younger Daughter, though still ill with whatever virus has taken up seemingly permanent residence in our house these last couple of weeks, was out. Youngest Son, who starts school again on Thursday, was trying to squeeze in as many hours of his football video game as humanly possible.

So I set up the humidifier in our bedroom and was watching the last few minutes of Leno's interview with Ron Howard before heading off to Dreamland.

Yes, I sometimes watch Leno. I know this makes me a complete square. I agree that Letterman's a better interviewer but I prefer Leno's monologues. So sue me, OK?

Anyway, just as I was reaching that tranquil moment where I could seamlessly turn off the TV and consciousness itself -- the power went out.

"Oh, shoot," I might have said, though I probably did not.

I bounded out of bed and down the stairs.

"What are you doing?" asked Long Suffering Spouse as I passed by the den on my way to the basement.

"We blew a fuse," I said. "Where's the flashlight?"

I still say fuse. It is a function of age, I suppose, although most of the places I've lived, including my current home, have circuit breaker panels instead of the old screw-in fuses. But I've changed my share of those, too.

Anyway, I needed the flashlight to illuminate the circuit breaker panel, obscured as it is from the basement lights by its proximity to a storage locker where we still have stored craft supplies in bulk from those days, now 14 or 15 years ago easy, when my wife ran the Sunday Pre-School. I identified the offending breaker and reset it.

I had to walk past Youngest Son coming and going. I did not break his concentration, however, on his game.

Up the stairs I went, and back to bed. I wasn't sure why we'd lost power: We weren't running anything exotic. Our Christmas decorations (still up) aren't that elaborate this year. Still, I turned off the TV. I didn't want to stress the power any more than necessary. Besides, Leno's next guest was some plus-sized, binge-drinking Jersey chick named Snooki. Snooki became a 'star' by binge drinking on an MTV 'reality' series. She has parlayed this stardom into a national pistachio commercial. (A product also pitched by Rod Blagojevich.) America: Land of Opportunity. Often for all the wrong people. And for all the wrong reasons.

I reset the alarm clock and went back to bed.

I sort of woke up when Long Suffering Spouse got into bed. "Turn off the light," she told me. (I'd left the light on the nightstand on.) I complied without ever fully regaining consciousness.

Thus, I can not say what interval of time passed before she roused me again. "The lights went out," my wife said.

"Well, yes," I replied, dimly recalling that I'd complied with her earlier directive to turn off the nightstand lamp.

"The fuse is out," she tried again.

"Oh," I said, rolling over.

"Never mind," she said, "I'll take care of it."

Distant shouts of "is it on?" and closer responses from Younger Daughter (home by this time) of "not yet" woke me up.

"Oh, for crying out loud," I might have said, though I almost certainly did not. I sat up slowly and put weight on my feet gradually. I creaked and groaned toward the stairs.

I found my wife and the flashlight in the basement. "Here, let me," I said.

"That's what you were supposed to say in the first place," said my wife, but she stood aside so I could jiggle the circuit breaker as required. My efforts were immediately rewarded: "It's on," came the distant call of Younger Daughter.

"Is something going on?" asked Youngest Son. Must be halftime in his game, I thought.

Anyway, back upstairs we went. I reset the alarm clock. Again. I went back to sleep. Some time passed. Then Long Suffering Spouse woke me up -- again.

"Power's out. Again," she said.

"Good," I said. "Who needs electricity when we're asleep?"

But it was no use. My wife pointed out that I would want the alarm clock in the morning. I said Youngest Son could wake us up on his way out to baseball practice. (He uses his cellphone for an alarm clock -- and thus didn't need power on upstairs to wake up this morning.) But my wife was unpersuaded -- and on her way to reset the circuit breaker.

I followed.

I would up resetting it. Again. There is a little wrist action required; it's not just flicking the switch. Long Suffering Spouse just couldn't do it; for some reason, last night, I could. Somewhere along the way, passing him by, I mentioned to Youngest Son that he would have to wake me up in the morning. He may have grunted an acknowledgment. It may have been a reaction to a play in his video game, too.

I am not sure how many times we did this in the course of a couple hours. We kept unplugging things each time. I thought, at one point, it might be the humidifier's fault. Maybe, I speculated, it had sprayed out too much, shorting an adjacent powerstrip plug or something. Putting too much baking soda in the humidifier can make it spit like a major league hitter. But the power went out even after the humidifier was unplugged. Finally, I persuaded Long Suffering Spouse that the problem was not that we had too many things plugged in but, rather, that the circuit breaker itself had worn out. It was, in technical terms, busted.

I think this diagnosis will be confirmed when the electrician comes later today.

Meanwhile, we eventually got to sleep. In the dark. Which one ordinarily does anyway, right?

And, oh yes, Youngest Son did wake me this morning as I'd asked. I'm not certain how the request sank in. But I've done it often enough for him.

No comments: