Monday, January 14, 2008

Live Wire

Electricity freaks the fuck out of me, man. It's a fear that has been with me for a long time, almost to my earliest memories. I think it stems from the time when I got shocked from the refrigerator, when I was growing up in the Philippines; when I was a little tyke of seven sporting a homemade bowl cut.

The refrigerator was old even then. I wouldn't be surprised if my dad found it in an alley somewhere and took it home. It was a faded yellow GE, chipped in various places and it had a metal handle. I don't know how long, but for a little while, it was poorly grounded such that sometimes when you touched the handle, you'd feel a very mild current.

I know I know, that's weird, but I don't think that my parents had the money to have it fixed. Maybe the cord was frayed, maybe there was something wrong with the electrical wiring, I don't know, but when you're a kid, even though it was mild, it sorta freaked me out.

This worried me whenever I wanted something from the fridge, which was rare, since there were never any snacks or ice cream or anything to munch on. The selection was limited, since the meagre income that my dad made as a taxi driver went to buying the essentials: vegetables, some meat and cheapest fish from the market.

If I went to the fridge for anything, it was probably for cold water, since I spent a lot of time running around in the year-round 80 degree weather. I think there was one time that I remember when my mom bought some freezer pops for my brothers and I, it was like the most exciting thing that happened that whole year.

I had to psych myself to open the fridge, slowly reaching for the metal handle and praying that I wouldn't get shocked. Later on, I learned to wrap my hand in the bottom half of the t-shirt I was wearing to prevent getting shocked. Even after the fridge was fixed, I still wrapped my hand in my t-shirt for a long while, just in case.

I remember one time, after a big storm where there was a lot of flooding, I went to get some water from the fridge, not really thinking and reached for the handle. I got a big shock, stinging me more than normal. It startled me so much tears welled in my young, tender eyes...

I think that experience scarred me for life. I didn't touch the refrigerator for a month afterwards.

It made me so wary about electricity, I don't even like how sometimes in the winter, you get shocked from static electricity when you touch metal or skin. After walking on a wool carpet, I would often try to de-static myself my touching some insulated material. I hate wool sweaters even though they are often the ones that look luxurious. Like a poor relation, I have to settle for plain, crude cotton sweaters.

This past weekend, I had to install a fancy ceiling fan to replace the dingy white fan we had in our living room. My boyfriend had refused to install it since he got shocked when he installed our new pendant lighting in the dining room.* He thinks it's because the previous owners of our place didn't wire the lighting correctly.

I guess I was going to have to hire an electrician until I remembered one important thing: I was a cheapskate. I am so cheap that yesterday, I ate a brown, mottled banana and I'm not talking about my boyfriend's penis. The instruction manual seemed simple enough, so I girded my loins. I was going to try to do it myself.

Even though I had turned off the main electrical source, I still felt enormous trepidation as I climbed the ladder and reached out to touch the exposed wires. I steeled myself as my finger neared copper, sending out a silent prayer.

When nothing happened, I felt a huge relief! I still live, I still breathe--which meant that I still needed to avoid running into my creditors. I put together the rest of the ceiling fan and finished the installation.

Later, I stepped down and surveyed my work. I felt so proud of myself. My heart was bursting with pride so much, it was like Pamela Anderson bursting out of her bra. I feel like I do can anything now--anything: spackle holes in the wall, fix leaky faucets, steal cable service--as long as it is nowhere near wool carpets in the winter.

* You can actually see the pendant lighting that Brian installed in the background of the picture.

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