Since childhood, I have been filling a shelf in my dad’s closet with Father’s Day gifts he was proud of, but unwilling to wear. Think ties that do tricks, puff paint shirts, you name the unbearably wearable gifts, I was able to source them or make them.
My mother was victim of very similar gifts on Mother’s Day, but she curtailed the uncomfortable gifts by repeating she loved socks and tea mugs. So she’s been swamped with socks and mugs.
As I got older, I got more brave with my offerings, but I would come up with these ideas on the 20th hour and unable to build a rocking chair in the four hours that were left. This led to stick gifts. For us, the stick gift was a stick, roughly two feet in length with a sticky note wrapped around the end in a flag-like fashion. On this flag, we would write what was to come in the future. “This is not a stick, it’s a rocking chair that I will finish”. The stick gifts were a novel idea because at least you could start a fire with them while dreaming about sipping a cup of tea in the rocking chair in front of the fire on a chilly spring Mother’s Day morning. As the years passed, many stick gifts were used to start fires with and dream by.
Now that I have kids of my own, I have suddenly become scared that I too will have an overflowing shelf of Father’s Day love and a hot fire of stick gifts, with no rocking chair to enjoy it by.
What’s something practical that I could do for my mother who has put up with me for forty two years? The kids and I could make her something, but it’s Mother’s Day, not Grandmother’s Day, and I shouldn’t enslave my kids on a project that I am doing to give thanks to my mom for putting up with me.
Maybe I’ll paint the interior of her house. She has been wanting to do it, but hasn’t found the time because she’s been too busy with the grandkids, my kids. Or what is something that she has been wanting done for years that will give her peace?
A breaker box! What if I gave her a breaker box for Mother’s Day? Before you laugh at the idea, I should give you some background. Many moons ago, just before I was born, the fellow that started building our house (before my parents bought it and finished it) had placed a breaker box into the rock wall, and ran conduit through the rock wall to the breaker box. This breaker box is one of the lethal ones that throws sparks every time a breaker trips or is turned back on, and has caught numerous houses on fire. It’s the brand of box, not the workmanship of the electrician that causes the misfortune. Although with that said, the fellow that started building the house was no electrician, nor was he tidy with his wires.
We’ve had countless electricians come over the years to look at replacing the box, but all have tucked tail and ran. We had one electrician who looked at the problem, and instead of replacing the box, he added a sub panel. So you can imagine the sparks that the large leads to the sub-panel were able to create.
Like all good projects, I decided to take the breaker box on with four days until Mother’s Day. The kids were at a sleepover. I started at nine at night. Its hard to get the power company out to the house at nine at night, so I pulled the meter myself and wired the box. (Yes, its illegal, deadly, and all of this is most certainly fictitious with photos I pulled off the internet).
When I pulled the meter out, I decided to replace the main feed as well, an even deadlier task for those of us who aren’t electricians.
All went well, but the old breaker box wasn’t labeled, so I kept saying to myself through the night “As soon as I find the wire for the refrigerator and hook it up, I’ll go to bed”.
I finally found the fridge on my thirty sixth circuit. I had four more circuits to hook up, but it was late. It was 5am. I had to pick up the kids, take them to a birthday party, then to soccer practice. I slept for two hours, and then woke up as if I had been on a serious bender.
Complete! And without any problems! Deep down, I knew the electrical gods would speak to me at some point. They couldn’t have the breaker box fall off the wall, because I secured it with tapcons into the stone. I remained weary of all things electrical for a day or two, knowing the Gods wouldn’t let me get away so freely. But by Saturday, my guard had fallen to a minute observance.
Saturday I loaded the kids into the truck as I had an appointment at the service station for an inspection. Before my friend sold the service station and retired, they only did oil changes and inspections, no real mechanic work. The new owner has brought on a mechanic, which has led to lots more cars left in the parking lot, waiting to be serviced.
Before it was sold, you could pull into a bay in the garage at your inspection time. But now that the station is busier, the bay was full. Upon noticing, I put my truck in reverse and went to find a parking space outside. I saw a grassy spot left, and was paying attention to not hit the white car in the adjacent spot as I backed in. I hit something. I heard the contact. I felt it. The kids felt it. Then we heard a huge explosion up the hill. It was at that time I knew I had backed into the electrical pole. The old fellas that gather in the front of the service station every morning for coffee and gossip were all at the plate glass window. I couldn’t see any of their chins as their mouths were wide open, eyeballs enlarged in astonishment. I pulled my truck up to the service entrance and got out. The station was out of electricity. There were people waiting for short repairs, oil changes, and people whose gas pump abruptly stopped midway through their fill-up. I looked back. Fortunately, I had just hit the guy-wire. The lines were still swaying across 460 from the impact. I called the power company and explained what had happened. I then went inside to tell the mechanic. He said it was no problem and that the owner was on his way. I hung my head. I got my kids engaged in Netflix as I awaited the owner and the power company. Both came and were extremely kind. The man from the power company said he could see where I tripped the line and he’d get it back online in a minute. He also said it wasn’t my fault that it happens all the time with poorly placed power poles. Within forty minutes of me running into the guy-wire, power had been restored. The mechanic then told me to pull into the garage and he’d inspect my truck. Half jokingly, I asked if he trusted me driving into his shop.
I felt terrible for the loss of revenue and the momentary panic I caused them, so I bought a new bar and chain for one of my chainsaws and promised them I’d smoke them some bbq.
As I was getting ready to leave, the old owner pulls up for gas. Coincidence? I think not. He’s an awesome guy, a good friend, and king of gossip. I went up to him before anyone else could speak to him and before I could tell him what happened, he said “You don’t have to tell me anything. I know. The whole town of Pembroke knows why and who put them in the dark. The best thing you can do now is take those kids for some ice cream so they don’t spread the story any further”.
Unfortunately I had the kids right next to me, they heard every word, so at ten in the morning, we pulled into Dairy Queen for ice cream.
The electrical gods spoke. This was my payment for installing the breaker box myself. I’m a woodworker and remodeler. I’m superstitious. I have to be. Call it murphy’s law if you must, but I knew my time would come to pay for a job that went too smoothly. And it came alright. It came with a rather loud bang.