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A shocking post

Double WhammyRemember last week when I wondered if the streetcar tracks in Toronto would electrocute me if I stepped on them?

Well, it got me thinking about electricity. I have a morbid dread of electricity going bad, because when electricity goes bad, it can go very bad, very quickly and dramatically, with no warning. With volts, and amps and all kinds of awful things. One moment you can be happily and obliviously changing a lightbulb or scaling a tower or something, and the next thing you know, wham, you’re dead on the ground with smoke coming out of your ears. I saw what happened to the squirrel that touched the wrong part of the electric thing in my yard on Rochester. His eyes burst right out of his head.

I think the reason electricity scares me so much (apart from the fact that it just IS scary) is that I don’t understand it. I’ve never understood it. I think we learned about it in physics, but it didn’t make any sense to me, and I can’t retain information unless it makes sense. Various people have tried to explain electricity to me since then, but it goes in one ear and out the other (har har).

Some of us were talking at work the other day about what we’d do if we were in high school now and choosing our future careers. We all thought the trades would be a wise path to pursue.

“Electrician?” asked the consultant.

The editor and I both had the same instant visceral reaction to that suggestion. We absolutely, completely, gut-level, out-of-hand rejected any possibility of ever being an electrician. (And we both thought a nice girly trade like cabinetmaker would be the way to go.)

I have two memories of electricity as a child.

My sister stood on a chair to fix a flickering lightbulb, and suddenly she was not on the chair anymore and she was crying hard. She was okay after a few minutes, but I was vicariously traumatized. I wanted to know what had happened, and why, and most importantly, what it had felt like and why she was so scared. But she couldn’t explain what had happened or describe the pain. I inspected her hand but there was no blood, no bruise, nothing. I think that was the day electricity became the Invisible Enemy.

The other memory is of a series of events when I was thirteen and living in Kinburn, Ontario, population 300. Teenagers, being teenagers, needed more kicks than sleepy, drugless little Kinburn was providing. Sometimes we smoked cigarettes behind the boards at the skating rink. Sometimes we hyperventilated and then held our breath till we got high and passed out from oxygen deprivation. And sometimes we all joined hands and one person would grab hold of the electric fence. Yee haw.

10 comments to A shocking post

  • How odd. Just an hour or so ago I was thinking of the time I electrocuted myself changing a fluorescent lightbulb. It felt like I’d seen god, so terrible you can’t remember the actual event, just the sense of wonder and rebirth after.

    I still think I’d be an electrician though.

  • Dee

    Well, it just proves what I always say —

    Messing with your plumbing wrong may get you wet, but messing with your electricity wrong can get you dead.

  • Em

    I did the electric fence thing when I was younger too. :)

    Very odd to read this post after seeing this story on the news tonight –

  • stine

    When I was 6 we lived in a trailer and because of wiring it burned to the ground along with everything we owned.

    WHen I was 8 we lived in a different trailer – it was my 8 birthday party and a rainy day. At one point a bolt of lightening came thru the window and right into the light socket.

    Scary stuff electrics and such!

  • Deb

    I remember getting in trouble for changing that light bulb. Apparently I stood on the washing machine to do it. Mom freaked that I had combined water and electricity.

  • That sign is hilarious. From whom do they collect the $200? Take it out of the guy’s smoking pockets?

  • XUP

    Electricity is freaky because it occurs naturally AND can be generated through magic and alchemy by humans. My family lore includes long lists of things you can and cannot do during thunderstorms some of which make no sense, but I abide by them anyway just in case. My grandmother was ironing in her kitchen one day and a lightening bolt came in through one window, completely scorched the shirt she was working on and left through another window. She said she felt really odd for days afterwards. Or maybe the whole thing was an elaborate excuse for ruining grandpa’s shirt.

  • I always say I know just enough about electricity to be scared of it!

    Tyren freaks me right out because he finds electricity just fascinating and tells me about things like how lightning can come up out of the ground and kill you, and how there are special types of mega electricity that are generated by some space phenomena and it can hit airplanes and such.

    We aren’t safe anywhere!

  • Megan, this has been the week for odd blogging coincidences. I seem to be picking up transmissions or something. (And thanks for describing what it felt like – all Debbie can remember is getting in trouble for getting herself electrocuted!)

    Dee, messing with both your plumbing and your electricity wrong at the same time can get you EXTRA electrocuted.

    Em! See what I mean about the coincidences? I didn’t know about that guy till I read your link. And I’m amazed that there are others who did the electric fence thing. Are you from Kinburn???

    Stine, that’s just freaky. But I bet all your little friends will remember your 8th birthday party for the rest of their lives.

    Deb, I think I know where we get the fear of electricity from. (Mom, I don’t think it’s combining water and electricity unless she was standing IN the washing machine). Deb, do you remember when one of your kids came to my apartment and stuck a knife in a socket?

    Julia, maybe they figure some people are more motivated by money than by threats to their own mortality. (And they’re probably right!)

    XUP, I’d love to trade lists of things you can’t do in a thunderstorm someday.

    Dirtwitch, are you sure he’s not making it up? I don’t want to believe in electricity that can come up out of the ground and kill me.

  • Deb

    Sue, that was Lindsay that stuck the knife in the socket. Someone I know had a kid that liked to stick keys in sockets and pretend that they were starting a car…can’t remember who though.