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Friday, July 2, 2010

Switch Hitter

After being a homeowner for almost six years I can pretty much say I know my house inside and out. However, there are those times where I stumble upon something I cannot clearly say I was fully aware of in the last six years. I’ve either forgotten that it was there or I just never bothered to look. Now, I’m not talking about things I’ve put into the house like appliances or other objects. For the life of me I can’t find a check that I know I left in the kitchen one day and it pisses me off that I haven’t found it yet. Then there is some AA batteries that I specifically bought for something and now cannot find the unopened pack in the abyss that is our Red Room. With a three year old it’s not hard to believe that things could go missing but these are things she wouldn’t have had access to. Perhaps I need to go down and check out the history of the area. I may have bought a house that was built on some old cemetery. “You only moved the head stones. Why? Why?!”

Still, like I said, every once in a while I come across something that totally shakes my confidence as someone with a pulse. It could be a blemish on the hardwood floor in the dining room that I continually look at as if it is a spider preparing to eat me alive. I’ve probably blown at it or gotten real close to it a hundred times in the last six years and still thought it was a bug. It just so happened that a couple of months ago I became baffled by a light switch.

Now, when I first moved into my house I had to go through the whole “This switch does this and that switch does that.” In fact I had to call the previous owner to ask about one in the garage because I couldn’t figure out what it went to. Turned out it powered an outlet just outside the garage which I use for holiday lighting. Yep, Clark Griswold, here, uses one outlet for all his exterior illumination. But this was almost six years ago. Here I am years later and I am just realizing I don’t know what this switch by my front door does. At least I don’t remember what it does.

There are four switches here. So, I do what everyone does. I flip it. I flip it. I flip it. I flip it. Nothing. I open the front door and flip it. Nope. The porch light is on another switch. I look inside the door that goes to the attic which has two switches. One doesn’t do anything and I’ve switched it a thousand times before I realized it went to the attic fan which has a pull chain on it as well. I guess it’s an override. The other switch belongs to the attic light. Back to the front door. I try another switch. The light above the entryway blazes on like a UFO ready to abduct me for some probing. I try the fourth switch. Nothing. What in the blue hell? Oh, never mind. That one powers the outlet behind the loveseat. We only use that during the holidays as well. I continue flipping the unknown switch while looking around the room. Still no clue as to what it does. Eventually, I get bored and stop looking.

A few days go by and I am expecting company. I go to the front door and turn on the porch light. The UFO shows up again. “Dammit! Six years in this damn house and I still can’t turn the porch light on in the first try. I switch off the entryway light and turn on the porch light. But I had to think about it first. Meanwhile that phantom switch stares at me. “Come on, you know you want to try me. I can feel it. You want to start flipping me incessantly because you don’t know what I do. Go ahead.”

“No. I will not be pulled into this insanity. Good day to you, sir.”

Another couple of days go by and I realize that the front porch light is still on. I flip the switch. Nothing. “Oh for the sweet love of Zombie Jesus. That’s the outlet switch.” I turn off the front porch and go on my way. Then I come back and flip that damn phantom switch three more times. Maybe it only works in the daylight or maybe the problem is that it needs to warm up first.

Now, as a tangent taker, I need to tell you this other story. When I was a kid, we had a dusk to dawn light on the back of our house just above the living room window. It was one of those big white lights that took forever to warm up and once you got it going, you didn’t want to turn it off. Growing up, I remember seeing E.T. in the theater with a friend of mine. I went with him and his mom and afterwards they dropped me off at my house. I was about seven years old and I walked into my house like it was a strange and scary place. I couldn’t find my parents anywhere and proceeded into the living room at the back of the house to sit down and watch some television.

The comforting beam from that huge ass lamp outside bathed the room with enough light that I could walk unassisted across the room to the switches by the back door. I reached up and flipped the switch and suddenly I was in total darkness. I flipped the wrong switch and shut off the outside light. I immediately flipped it back but who knows how long it could take to come back on to full power. During that time I was likely to have been eaten by a grue. Suddenly I became a berserk ridden child and pinballed all over the house looking for a room with light. It was if the power completely went out in the entire world and I was trapped in a box. I made it into the kitchen where I found my parents. I don’t know where they were at the time. Perhaps they were out for the evening since I was gone and didn’t make it back in time. Perhaps they… um, never mind. Let’s skip ahead. This memory came back to me as I waited for whatever mythical light that was attached to that stupid phantom power switch to warm up. It didn’t.

I forgot about the switch for about a week and then I was doing something in my living room and had to turn on the UFO light above the door. I ended up turning on the front porch light and my wife said, “What are you doing?” I said, “I know, I hit the wrong switch.” I then proceeded to hit the phantom switch because I had finally forgotten that I didn’t know what it did. “Doh!” Finally, I got it together and cued the UFO and looked my wife. “Honey, do you know what the hell this switch does? I can’t figure it out.”

“That’s for the light in the yard. Remember, we went through this when we first moved into the house.”

Then it dawned on me. There were two switches that I thought served no function. The first one was in the garage and the second one was at the front door. When I called the previous owner he told me about the garage and the fact that they installed a gas powered lamppost in the front yard. It’s a pain in the ass because it’s always on. I have to close the valve on it to shut it off and it’s a bitch to relight. Not to mention I have to buy mantles from a certain store at a certain time of day and they’re $10 a piece. I originally thought the switch in the garage powered it but they told me about the outlet and that the switch at the front door that doesn’t do anything was for the lamppost when it was electric. “So, I guess it doesn’t do anything. It’s a dead switch.” I said, and flipped it back and forth one more time. OK, two more times. OK, three.

The next day I got a call from some old guy in Sweden. He said, “Cut it out!”

OK, four times.

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