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Shocking Experiences

In all the years that I’ve been driving – five decades, if you count that time when I was 9 and drove our field car across a headland – this was the first time such a thing had happened.

I was tooling down a lonely country highway and minding my own business. “Radar Love” was blaring from the speakers, and I was thumping to the rhythm when SPLUT! A large green gob smacked the windshield directly in front of my face.

At first I thought that Kermit the Frog had been tossed from an airplane by mobsters who were displeased with Kermit’s lack of payment on his gambling debts. But closer examination revealed no traces of flying amphibian, only greenish gunk.

Glancing skyward, I saw a string of snow geese winging overhead. Aha!

Thank goodness for windshield washer fluid. A quick spritz of the blue juice quickly erased the green goo. I’m just glad that cows don’t fly.

I ruminated upon the odds of the shot that the goose had made. The geese were approximately 1,000 above the ground and flying northward, I was driving west at 65 mph, and the wind was gusting from the northeast. The chances of that goose hitting me squarely between the eyes was 1 billion to one. We’re talking about a really gifted goose.

The whole experience left me feeling grimy. I couldn’t wait to hop into the shower at the end of the day.

Ahhh! There’s nothing like a steaming shower to wash away the physical grunge and the mental image of the goose glop that had almost bombed my noggin. When I unthinkingly touched one of the shower’s metal fixtures, I felt a small nip.

Certain that I was mistaken, I touched the fixture again. The nip felt more like a nibble this time. It reminded me of the sensation one might feel when one – don’t try this at home! – touches one’s tongue to the terminals of a 9-volt battery. Aha!

I later went to the basement and touched the metal pipes atop our water heater. Nothing. Maybe that shower shock had sprung from an overworked imagination. But when I grabbed a pipe while also touching our furnace ductwork, my instant reaction was HOLY CRAP, THAT’S ELECTRICITY!

I immediately went upstairs and reported these findings to my wife. She replied, “Now that you mention that, it felt like I was getting shocks while I was doing dishes.”

After being married all these years, one hopes that the electricity is still there. You just don’t want it to be the kind that comes from your household wiring.

Since boyhood, I have harbored an aversion to soap and water. Perhaps this stray voltage situation explains some things.

We called our electricity supplier and they sent a crew out. The two crewmen went to our basement and used some mysterious gizmos to resistance this and continuity that. I had only a vague understanding regarding what they were doing. I would have believed whatever they said even if they had used a forked stick to dowse for the source of our stray voltage.

The power company guys discovered that our hot water heater wasn’t grounded. After they corrected that, they proceeded to remove the cover from our fuse box, which they described with the technical-sounding moniker “electrical service panel.”

My experience with fuse boxes is short and unpleasant. Let’s just say that I have learned the hard way that one should never, EVER get a screwdriver within 10 yards of a fuse box that’s connected to our nation’s power grid.

Yet, the power company guys were nonchalantly sticking their screwdrivers into our live fuse box. I waited for the inevitable ZAP! and the blinding flash of an electric arc and the copious cursing.

But no. The power company guys, unlike me, knew what they were doing. After they had finished their work and closed everything back up, we stood beside their service truck as they gave me their report. They said that our water heater was now working perfectly and that washing dishes or ourselves would no longer be a shocking experience. Even so, I decided to avoid any undue risks regarding dish washing.

There was one item that the power company guys found puzzling. A good number of the screws that connect our wires to our circuit breakers had needed tightening.

“It looked like they jiggled loose,” said one of the guys. “What sort of TV programs have you been watching?”

My mind racing, I glanced up at the sky. Aha!

“Look out!” I exclaimed as I pointed toward the zenith, “Here comes a flock of geese! Duck!”           

Jerry’s book, Dear County Agent Guy, is available at Workman.com and in bookstores nationwide.

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