Thursday, June 17, 2004

So, how's your week been? Mine? Well, let's see...

Monday night I dropped Christie off at my parents' house in Kansas City so she could catch an early morning flight, had dinner and a little facetime with the folks, then headed home about 10:00, putting me in bed by not too long after midnight. No stress, I can just go to bed early tomorrow night, I thought.

Tuesday night, the cable goes out, as does the cable modem. Fine. It happens. I mean, sure, it sucks when the girlfriend leaves town, then the porn pipeline shuts down, but I've got a Tivo full of shows to watch, laundry to do, books to read, and boxes full of stuff to be put away in the kitchen. Besides, the cable generally fixes itself in a matter of minutes. After a couple of hours, though, it's still out, so I decide to check all the connections, then call the cable company. Everything looks fine inside the house, so I check the box outside. The first thing I notice is that it's warm. And when I open it up, there are sparks coming from the ground wire connection, and I can see that the insulation around the cable where it comes into the filters is starting to melt! Nice.

While I'm on hold with Mediacom, I call the city (which provides my electricity). I know cable isn't supposed to carry any current, just data, so maybe something got crossed up on the pole? The promise to send somebody right out. Meanwhile, I disconnect the cable in the house so I don't do anymore damage to my equipment than might have already happened, and tighten the almost completely loose ground wire on the cable box so that the current will have somewhere to go.

I finally get through to Mediacom, and the guy on the other line makes notes on my problem and agrees that it sounds very, very serious. However, as I found out when I called them today to find out what they were doing to solve my problem, he apparently forgot to press the "do something" button or whatever the hell it is you're supposed to do that makes men with trucks come to your house and fix things. But I didn't know that at the time, and get off the phone feeling like something's being done.

About this time, the guys from the city show up. They can tell right away that it's not their problem, but they stick around anyway, checking the voltage from various things to ground, opening up my main breaker box, checking the meter and just generally poking and prodding until they're pretty sure it's a problem with the cable and nothing with the house, but I might want to call an electrician, just to be sure. In the words of one of them, "You got me, chief. It's a head-scratcher, alright."

Before they leave, they uncouple the house from the wire coming off the pole, so I no longer have firehazard screwed onto the side of my house. Nice guys. I go to bed not too long after midnight, thinking as I plummet into sleep that I need to get a surge protector for the entertainment center that covers the coax as well as the plugs.

Wednesday: There's no point in surge protection if you're dealing with an ungrounded outlet, and that's an ungrounded outlet. So I spend my lunch hour buying 50 ft. of 14 gauge wire, fish tape, outlet boxes, wire staples, and, of course, a surge protector. Oh, and Rolos.

It's getting hot outside, and the AC's been sucking wind lately, so I call Reed Heating and Air Conditioning. They think maybe they can get somebody to come out the next day. Great, I say. About 4:30, I get a call. Can I be home in ten minutes? Turns out somebody got done early with another job, and he can come by right away. Really great, I say. So I'm doing wiring while he's hunting down a freon leak. Being a professional (and having a task that's a little more limited in scope), he's done well before I am. But I am, once again, in bed not too long after midnight.

What did I learn? Well, my belief that nothing ever goes as plan was once again confirmed. And I've expanded my belief that somebody's drunk brother-in-law wired my house has been expanded to somebody's drunk, insane brother-in-law wired my house. That impressive looking fifty year old fuse box at the bottom of my stairs? It turned out to control a single light switch that, in turn, controlled a single 40 watt light bulb. I'm keeping it, though, to be used for some sort of mad-scientist project down the road.

And then there's my totally irrational belief that blood must be shed before the home-improvement gods will allow any significant work to continue. In addition to the usual ephemeral scratches, this time I got a nice puncture wound right between my fingers from (wait for it) a rusty nail. So not only does it hurt in that deep, I-think-I-cut-into-muscle kind of way, but I get to go in for a tetanus booster. Whee!

Oh, and the cable is still out, but they say they'll be able to come fix it on Monday. Monday! Jeez. Mediacom could definitely take a lesson from the air conditioning guy.

In other news, Hoffmania is back from vacation with some truly funny Florida stories.

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