M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Wednesday, September 05, 2007  

No TV For You!

One advantage of having had so much writing to do so far this year is that I haven't had time to work on any major home projects. Sure, we sheared the top of the house off and put on a new one on starting about a year ago last week, but we paid people to do that. And besides, even if we hadn't, the tear-out/start-over aspect of it would have kept us away from having to deal with the terrifying work of Dr. Jellyfinger.

So you'd think that his crap handiwork would have been leaving us alone. You'd think wrong.

The other night, I figured it was time to finally sit down and watch the finale of The Office that's been gathering dust in my TiFaux for the past three months. So I went downstairs, hit the universal remote button that turns on the whole schmear, and waited. And waited.

The little display window on my TiFaux that usually tells me either the time or the channel was instead cycling between darkness and the messages "boot" and "nu." I don't know what "nu" was supposed to mean, but it seems to me that if a cable company is going to provide customers with a piece of electronic equipment that customers don't have to pay for, and that is sometimes prone to frustrating glitches, they probably wouldn't want it telling people to "boot" it any more than is absolutely necessary.

In any case, I quickly figured out that the TiFaux/cable box wasn't the problem, because the TV wasn't coming on either. They're both plugged into the same power strip, so it seemed more likely that they just weren't getting the juice they needed. Making this theory seem even more likely was the fact that there seemed to be a soft crackling noise coming from inside the wall behind the TV, like one of our gigapedes had moved into an outlet box and taken up spot-welding.

This was one of the rare occasions where D. Jellyfinger's shoddy workmanship was actually to my advantage. He was the one who built the wall separating the TV room from the laundry room, and it is, as is the case with most of his work, a wall in only the most basic sense of the word. The lower half consists of heavy wood paneling attached to nothing, and the upper half consists of a single layer of Masonite. That meant that the electrical boxes that are usually "inside" a wall are, in this case, "behind" the wall. And one of those boxes, I noticed, was emitting a thin line of acrid white smoke along with the crackling noise.

The weird thing is that it wasn't the outlet box that was doing this, like you might expect. It was the box that houses the light switch on the wall above and a couple of feet to the left of the power box. Surely Dr. Jellyfinger hadn't run the power from the breaker box to the power outlet through the light switch box, had he?

Well, of course he had. This was something new. Usually it's his laziness that messes me up. This time he'd gone out of his way for the sake of my inconvenience.

Knowing I was going to have to get in there, I shut off the power to the basement lights, which I assumed would kill the juice to everything in that box. To my amazement, I threw the correct circuit breaker on the first try, which never happens. Imagine my surprise when, in the illumination from my Maglite, I pulled out the switch mechanism on its wires and then heard that tiny little insect spot-welder still at work in there. And when I turned off the flashlight, I could see the sparks as well.

I'm going to spare you any suspense you might be feeling as to whether I electrocuted myself, or fried our home computers, or accidentally plunged the whole neighborhood into a blackout. None of that happened. Instead I called my dad and asked, "What the hey?" Dad said it sounded like the power to the outlet, despite going through the light switch, was on a different circuit.

So then there was a whole other process of trial and error, during which I had to wiggle the switch around in between every circuit breaker I threw, to see if I could get it to make more sparks each time. This time, it was almost the very last switch in the box. And I say "almost" only because I refrained from just shutting off all the power to the whole house.

So then it transpired that between the two circuits I'd shut down, the entire basement and main floor were dark save a few random outlets. Ah, well. Nothing for it. I pulled out the now-completely-dead switch and looked inside the box. Where one of those little plastic screw-on wire connecters that look like tiny traffic cones was supposed to be, there was a yellow ring, a layer of goo, and a lot of exposed wire. After more than fourteen years in this house, you learn to recognize these signs that are the equivalent of a neon flasher reading "DR. JELLYFINGER WAS HERE."

"Wouldn't you rather do this in the daytime?" Trash suggested at this point. And since I didn't have a new one of those connectors in the house at the time, I kind of had to agree.

So I went to turn the power back on, and of course it wouldn't go back on, because the crappy connection that only refused to power the TV had now become an all-out short circuit thanks to my own Jellyfingrian manipulations. I would have left it that way, but since that meant more than half of our house would be dark (including no Internet), Trash suggested an alternate solution.

So my temporary "fix" – in the sense that it isn't "fixed" at all – is to have the wires sticking out of the box, with the previously bare metal wrapped in electrical tape, and M. Small completely banished from the basement until it's all fixed. In the meantime, I ran a big orange extension cord from the utility room out into the front room, and plugged the TV/TiFaux/VCR power strip into that. "It's kind of ghetto, but it should work," I told Trash. At least until I get around to fixing it properly. I'll be damned if I'll let something like code safety interfere with my enjoyment of my long-awaited writing break here.

By the way, The Office finale was awesome. I highly recommend it.

posted by M. Giant 8:31 PM 7 comments


Your ability to deal with and understand and know how to fix these situations astounds me. Hubby and I would be so screwed if this were to happen at our house! I think I know where the circut breaker box is, hubby can change the HVAC filter in the attic, and....that's about it.

By Blogger Tami, at September 6, 2007 at 6:11 AM  

Lat winter our power went out and my husband hooked up a car battery to the tv and Dvd player so we could watch Stargate sg-1. Our house is also one of those 'surprse" houses where we find interesting shoddy work every time we open another wall. Good luck!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at September 6, 2007 at 7:24 AM  

Oh, this sounds so familiar. Our first house belonged to an "electrician." I use the term loosely. He apparently did this for a job, but practiced at home. We found many instances of "creative" wiring and there were at least two superfluous light fixtures in each room - some of which were on their OWN circuit (not being on the same circuit as the rest of the room) and could only be turned on/off with the fuse box. Yeesh. Hubs got zapped a time or two.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at September 6, 2007 at 8:50 AM  

I need to learn more about this Dr. Jellyfinger character, because if he's still working and I wind up at a rotation site where he is, I'm worried I'm gonna kill somebody.

By Blogger Febrifuge, at September 6, 2007 at 5:48 PM  

I'm pretty sure that Dr. Jellyfingers wired our old place, which was a converted garage unit. EVERY SINGLE outlet in the house was wired to one circuit, except for the fridge, which was wired to its own circuit. If you turned on the TV at the same time as you nuked your popcorn, the whole thing would blow.

My Dad rewired us, exclaiming in horror the whole time.

We won't even talk about the fact that Dr. Jellyfingers also applied particle board to the inside and outside of the garage door, and called it the front wall. Or that he installed the kitchen cabinets on top of the carpet, so when it inevitably leaked water through the "front wall," the cabinets disintegrated.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at September 7, 2007 at 2:33 PM  

My house is like that. Whenever we find one of those glitches we say it's been Gunned-Gunn being the name of the old owners who apparently took drugs before attempting to remodel. I had an electrical fire in the laundry room b/c they left a hot wires exposed, but covered by cheap paneling.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at September 8, 2007 at 7:52 AM  

We gone through at least 3 electricians, trying to re-wire the mistakes at our house. They all eventually end up crying in their trucks and refuse to ever come back.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at September 11, 2007 at 10:49 AM  

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