I have always been considered a dim bulb, except for the fact that I married a bright woman, who proves it by making me the one to risk electrocution whenever a light bulb needs to be changed.
So fearful am I when it comes to wattage that I was shocked — shocked! — to find myself helping out with electrical work being done at our house.
The track lighting in the family room had to be dismantled and replaced with high hats. And the ceiling fan and the chandelier in the kitchen both had to be updated. Because I could never perform these tasks without turning myself into a lightning rod, I hired Ed Knopf, a licensed electrician who, against his better judgment, made me his apprentice for the day.
“Do you know anything about electricity?” Ed asked.
“Of course,” I replied. “How do you think my hair got so curly?”
In his 40 years in the business, Ed has gotten a jolt or two himself.
He said, “You have to watch out for live wires.”
That includes hot women.
“I’ve had a few who were scantily dressed and were coming on to me,” Ed said.
“Did they want to make sparks fly?” I asked.
“I guess so,” he said. “Nothing happened because I was married at the time. But I did make sparks fly for a guy who wouldn’t leave me alone. He was standing right next to me to see what I was doing.”
“Was he making you hot under the collar?” I inquired.
“He was burning me up,” Ed said. “So I shorted out the wires on purpose. Sparks flew, and he was gone. I had to reset the circuit breakers, but it was worth it.”
I’m not sure it was worth it to have me as an apprentice, but I tried to help.
“Here,” Ed said as he stood on a ladder and handed me the track lighting. “You have to do something. You can’t just stand there and look pretty.”
I looked plastered when plaster fell on my head while Ed cut holes in the ceiling so he could run wires through. After handing me a handful of screws, he said, “Don’t screw up.”
I handed Ed the high hats and listened as he told me about more wacky customers.
“At this one house, the power was off, and the homeowner wanted to turn the lights on,” he said. “I told her I would get shocked. Then I said, ‘Don’t you know electricians can see in the dark?’ She said, ‘They can?’ She wasn’t too bright herself.”
Then there was the guy who thought Ed and his then-girlfriend, who was helping him install a fan, were having sex in the attic.
“It was 90 degrees, and we were up there for a while,” Ed said. “But we were just working. Honest.”
The worst customers are the ones who try to do electrical work themselves.
“I’m surprised they don’t burn their houses down,” said Ed, adding: “My favorite line is: ‘I have no idea where these wires go.’ I always say that to people.”
As he was installing the new ceiling fan in the kitchen, he said, “I was working with a friend once and he said, ‘Quiet, can’t you see I’m thinking?’ I said, ‘I thought I smelled something burning.’ The woman who owned the house said, ‘Burning? What’s burning?’ She panicked. I said, ‘Lady, that’s a figure of speech.’ You run into some real doozies in this job.”
The biggest doozy, I’m sure, was me. But at least I made myself useful and didn’t turn on the power before Ed was finished.
“You did a good job,” he said. “Your wife will be happy to know that you’re not so dim after all.”
Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for Hearst Connecticut Media and is the author of four books. His latest is “Nini and Poppie’s Excellent Adventures.” Email: JerryZ111@optonline.net. Blog: www.jerryzezima.blogspot.com.