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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

The Cross-Wired Crackpot

(Lots of baseball buzz going on lately over at Bugs & Cranks. To wit:

Dancing with the (Dirty Bird) Devil: “There’s no hurler this side of C.C. Sabathia in a padded suit of armor that’s going to stand in there with Vick chugging up the first base line.”

The Big Zero: “But thanks for the memories, Tommy. You did all right for a kid with a slapshot better than his fastball.”

Wednesday Walk Watch: Week eiWght: “You’d think just by dumb luck, these guys would garner more than a walk a week. I guess some luck is dumber than others.”

For those of you not into leather and horsehide and pine-tarred bat knobs — and you don’t know what you’re missing, folks — here’s a bit of non-baseball buzz to tide you over, too.)

Some things, I just never seem to grasp.

I’m not talking about the really tricky ‘thinky’ sorts of things, like religion and politics and the importance women ascribe to long eyelashes. I don’t grasp any of those things, either, but I figure I’m not really meant to. None of them has much to do with me, and that’s the way I like it.

Sometimes, though, there’s something I should be getting. I’ll be told something very simple and straightforward — usually by my wife — and it’ll slip through the holes in my brain like champagne through a sieve. I want to remember these things. Often, I need to remember these things. And — if it was indeed my wife who told me — I’m desperate to remember these things, lest she shake her head sadly at me (again) and say:

You just don’t listen, do you?

Well.. yeah. I listen. I just don’t remember, so much. If you’re looking for a faulty organ in this circuit, the ear is definitely not the problem. Don’t shoot the messenger when it’s the recipient that’s an idiot.

“I asked for everything I could possibly think of — ‘pork and beans’, ‘dog and pony’, ‘spit and polish, ‘Cagney and Lacey’, the works. None of it got me anywhere.”

Segue now to the home inspection on the new place my wife and I are buying. We walked through with the inspector, and found the unit largely free of major problems, with one exception. When it came to the electrical system, he took issue with the age and type of much of the wiring used. He told us that this particular type of wiring was quite old — not too surprising in a New England brownstone built near the turn of the last century — and that many insurers refuse to cover homes with this type of wiring present.

The type of wiring in question? ‘Knob and tube’.

Knob and tube. He must have said it fifteen times during the inspection. Knob and tube. Knob and tube. Knob. And tuuuuube.

Thirty seconds later, and it was gone from my head. All I retained was the ‘and’; I knew it was ‘something’ and ‘something’ — but what? And what? I asked my wife what he’d called it.

Knob and tube‘.

Whoosh. Gone again. What was it, honey?

Knob and tube.

*zzzzzttttt!* Lost it. Do you remember what kind of wiring he said?

For the love of god, knob and tube.

Nope. Still not getting it. One more time, please?

*sigh* You just don’t listen, do you?

Indeed, I do. We’ve been over this, dear; don’t call me ‘deaf’, when ‘dumb’ will do.

Sadly, the frazzled nerves and gentle barbs of my ever-patient wife were not the end of this particular ordeal. The discovery of this bit of electrical archaeology represented a serious kink in our home-buying plans — and a possible hurdle, depending on the scope. My wife asked if I’d mind getting an estimate for the cost of the upgrades we’d need.

That meant calling an electrician to have a look around — and that entailed describing the problem to someone with whom I haven’t exchanged marriage vows, and who is therefore under no obligation ‘to have and to hold, to honor and cherish, no matter how addled and jackassed he gets’.

(Yes, we wrote our own vows. She used hers to be sweet and romantical. I saw mine as an opportunity for contingency planning.

Sure, she wasn’t happy at the time. But just wait until the dementia sets in, and then we’ll see who’s stuck with whom. That’s some ironclad betrothing language there, kids.)

I found an electrician in the phone book and phoned in to set up an appointment.:

‘Yes, I’d like someone to come out to get an estimate on having some old wiring replaced.’

‘No problem, sir. What type of wiring is it?’

Damn. Ten seconds into the conversation, and I was already in a pickle. And my wife was at work, so I was on my own here. Maybe if I got close enough to the actual name, they’d just figure it out.

‘Uh… rack and pinion?’

‘Excuse me, sir? What kind?’

‘Er, um, bread and butter, I think it’s called. They’re bread and butter wires.’


‘Tom and Jerry?’

‘Sir, I’m not sure I can help you here.’

‘Buddy, you don’t know the half of it.’

I hung up and tried to regroup, racking my brain for the stupid name of the stupid type of stupid wiring I was supposed to be mentioning. Nothing. Lyrics to an old Marcy Playground song jumped into my head. Then nothing again. Then I remembered where I’d left my car keys back in college, when I thought I’d lost them and had to have a new set made. And finally, nothing.

Undaunted, I picked up the phone again and thumbed through the Yellow Pages. Things like this are why they list so many electricians in there in the first place, right?

I asked the next guy how much it would be to replace ‘cloak and dagger’ wiring. He said he didn’t know, and to try calling the CIA. The guy after that agreed to look at my ‘chutes and ladders’, but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t talking about wiring any more. One by one, I called up electrical specialists, and one by one, they shrugged at me over the phone, nonplussed. I asked for everything I could possibly think of — ‘pork and beans’, ‘dog and pony’, ‘spit and polish, ‘Cagney and Lacey’, the works. None of it got me anywhere.

I was on the last listing in the book — must have been Zimmerman Electric or Zarathustra Contractors or something — and was just about prepared to ask to ‘have my S and M wiring torn out’, when fortune finally shone on me.

‘Yeah, I’ve got some old wiring I need looked at.’

‘Old? You mean, like, knob and tube wiring? That old?’

Sweet merciful heaven. ‘Knob and tube’. Finally. If I made a habit of making out with gruff-sounding electrical contractors, I’d have tongued the guy’s ear through the receiver. Hallelujah to you, my sweet plumber-cracked angel.

‘Yes, that’s it exactly! Our inspector found–‘

‘Ah, sorry, we don’t do knob and tube. Too much of a hassle. Maybe try somebody in the phone book.’ *click*

So much for angels.

Still, now I had the info I needed. After an hour of making up ridiculous nonsense, now I could simply look up one of those other guys, call back, and tell them that I needed them to fix my…


My wiring. That old kind, that’s the… um. ‘Something’. And ‘something else’.


Forget it. I’ll just pretend I never tried to deal with it, and tell my wife later that she was supposed to call.

It’s not like she’ll remember the arrangement we had. She never listens, anyway.

Permalink  |  1 Comment

One Response to “The Cross-Wired Crackpot”

  1. Jenny says:

    Oh God – not knob and tube.

    Run away. Run away right now.

    Been there, done that, almost got divorced over it. (Sure, we can laugh now, a decade later – though usually I still just cringe.)

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