White Lightning Axiom: Redux: Electric Slide

Thursday, October 28, 2004


Electric Slide

Wednesday evening was a rewarding experience. Mostly. I say that now as I hack up sticky wads of blown insulation and knead my wretched muscles. It all started at 1530 when I finally had enough of sitting on my rear. It was time for action for this Daddy of action. I jumped into the SuperSaturn and zipped out to the turnpike. All was proceeding well until I got to the State Trooper Barracks about 3 miles down the road. It is situated on a hill off to the South side of the Tpk and has a drive-through road where you can see a trooper accelerating to get into traffic. There was a group of cars and a semi truck in the area and I was determined to pass them before someone pulled out and blocked me. There was no-one beyond this gaggle of goofs. Just as the SuperSaturn hit 85mph, a trooper began his descent onto the tpk ... I could see all the break lights of the other vehicles light up in unison. I figured it was much too late for me and looked in my rear-view mirror in anticipation of flashing blue and red lights. The blurting of the siren and it sucks the will out of my soul. I imagine being on 'World Most Deadly Police Pursuits' as I race off towards my own personal Green Zone. Hundreds of police and trooper cars piled up in mountains of twisted steel. Kinda like the Blues Brothers (the first one, not the bogus second one). It never happened, he just pulled over to the side of the road just beyond the overpass. That is the biggest Bridge Troll trap in the area. As I speed off, I thanked my lucky stars that he was not in the mood to bust me ... today. It's going to take a few years to get that last accident off our record, I don't need a complication like a speeding ticket to add to it. And don't tell me to slow down either, I was going with the flow of traffic, dammit. As soon as the sonic boom catches up to me, I'll tell you all about it. I did make it to the International Haupertonian Combine HQ and Manor by 1600. All time record. Ever.

I spent a good amount of time collecting all the supplies that I will need for the work that I will be doing in the attic. Getting in and out of the lower attic is not as difficult as the upper attic, but it is not a walk in the park. It is much akin to saying that sucking a golfball through a 50 foot hose is easier than sucking a 16lb bowling ball through. Both of those are a bit more comfortable than the joy that awaits me. Even on the coldest days of winter, its outlandishly hot in the attic. There are no floor boards either so I must either find the cross beams under the 50' rolls of insulation I spread out or get some large planks of plywood to lay over it. Oh, and I have to watch out for the recessed lighting boxes. Sharp, nasty little buggers they are. So, here are my provisions:

  • 1 electric drill

  • 1 Phillips head bit

  • 1 flashlight

  • 1 load-tester

  • 3 extension cords

  • 1 photolight

  • 1 set of pliers

  • 1 wire cutter

  • 1 wire stripper

  • 4 plywood boards

  • 1 wiring box with lid

  • 4 wire tie-downs

  • 4 wire plug-grips

  • 1 flat head screwdriver

  • 1 Phillips head screwdriver

  • 7 wirenuts

  • 4 lengths of wire (prestripped)

  • 4 screws

  • As I scrounge about and shuffle over the moist plywood board, I feel the presence of the roofing nails above my head. Like thousands of little teeth in a giant maw, biding their time to sink into my tender flesh. To rip away at my unprotected scalp. I hunch down lower and the tiny airborne specs of glass, dust and funk adhere to my sweat moisten skin. With fortune on my side, I find the offending junction box roughly 5 meters into the attic. It is a hack job beyond description. When they put the addition on the house, the contractors obviously did not include any electricians on the team. There is the box and switch from what I imagine was the original wiring still connected but turned off, the wires leading out of the box have not been taped off or capped. The box itself is not attached to anything, it is just laying on the sheetrock that is the ceiling of the kitchen. There are four more wires leading into the box, two of the original cloth romex and two newer ones. One is a black romex and the other is a 4 wire cable. The red wire from the 4 line is apparently not used because it is not connected and juts out from the box like a splintered bone. Crawling closer, I see the problem. Heat from the copper wire load has partially melted the plastic as well as deformed the aluminum wiring in the older cables. This has allowed the wire nut, which is too small for the job, to come loose thus freeing the copper wire. I put the load test probes on the free wires and they have no juice. Checking the copper produces a signal. I carefully climb out of the VietCong tunnel of doom and (with help of the Mrs) find the correct breaker to shut down the circuit. None of the circuits are properly labeled in the fuse box, which is a story for a future date. With the power safely off, I make my way back into the hellish orifice to where I had left the grandfather of all code-violations. Did I mention the wad of electrical tape that was jammed into the box to keep the ground wires from touching the white wires? Did I mention how it had degenerated into a sticky, but not adherent mess? Did I also fail to mention that some of the ground wires were not even twisted to the others? With great zeal, I rip into a mess like a pit-bull with a tape worm attacking a ribeye steak ... with A1 sauce. First, it remove and discard the disfigured wire nuts. I have to snip off the ends of the black wires since they have melted together into an indistinguishable slag. I straighten the cork-screw bodies and extricate the obsolete switch. That will make things a bit easier. First things first, I secure the wire box to a cross beam with the four screws. I then thread each of the wires through the compression plugs and secure them into the wire box. Tighten the compression plugs over the wires and then use the wire tie-downs to make sure that they don't get yanked loose in the future. After clipping all the wires to the same length and stripping 1/2 and inch of the plastic coating, I put new wirenuts on each of the three groups. Secure the lid and collect my scraps. It sounds easy, but being hunched over in 2.3 feet of space with sweat dripping off your nose as you try to manipulate the wires into place is not something I would like to repeat. I was folded over and crouching above the assemblage for nearly an hour with insulation gently screwing its way into my skin. In that time, the circulation to my legs was constricted and they had dutifully fell asleep. The synergetic effect of this with the MS left me with two slabs of heavy meat working at about 10% functionality. I slowly drug my limp appendages back towards the light, lugging the tools and other implements along with me. My hands are slick with sweat so I must be very careful about what I grab for support. I could very well take a shortcut to the glass kitchen table with rather unpleasant repercussions. Once I had sealed up the lower attic egress, I dusted off my hands and declared that this was the end of major combat operations. Then, the Mrs turned on the switch ... and it worked. Perfectly. The fact that I did not get electrocuted was the biggest portion of the coup d'etat for this task. The Mrs sets down the phone, 911 dialed in advance, and runs off with the Family Tank to go retrieve the kids. I shower off the stink of 30 years and get ready for the rest of the evening. I used up most of my energy reserves for the day so it will have to be a mild evening or I am doomed. Oh, I almost forgot, I chopped some wood just for the fun of it.


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