I decided to move my desk into another room last night. It’s been in my dining room. I put it there because about five years ago I moved to Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. Actually, that’s not quite true. I moved to Rumford, Maine, which is more like Superman’s horizontal freezer inside his Fortress of Solitude. Rumford is colder than an ex-wife that passes by when you’re panhandling. The only heat in the house is the pellet stove in the dining room and I parked my sorry self within ten feet of it five minutes after I installed it. I’d get right in the hopper and button up like a Panzer tank if I could, but that would void the warranty, I think.
Unfortunately, it’s like a bowling alley in the dining room, and I need to think occasionally when I write. I don’t think about what I write, but I do like to think about central heating and other mythical creatures while I type. Passes the time. The dining room simply has too much hubbub, bub.
In order to move my desk into our bedroom, I needed to install an electrical outlet. Our house was built when McKinley was president, and I think he was the electrician, too. It still has knobs and tubes all over the place, and most rooms in the house only have one convenience outlet. The room where the kids practice music doesn’t have any electricity at all.
I know how to install electricity in a new house, and an old house, and a restaurant, and a gas station, and a football stadium, and several other kinds of places no one invites me to build anymore. It’s really very simple except the part where you’re dealing with what was installed in the mists of antiquity by an escapee from a support group for mentally challenged subcontractors with Frankenstein fetishes. The meetings were held in my basement, I infer.
So I had a hankering for electricity last night after supper. My older son usually helps, but he’s sick and in bed, and the little one is watching something on the screen in the living room. That left me by my lonesome to scurry up and down the stairs to find a spot to bring Romex up from the basement and into the wall on the first floor to install the outlet. I located a knot in the subfloor, and used it for a measuring point. I found an abandoned wire I could re-route from a clothes dryer from the seventies, and I followed it back to a spider’s cathedral in the ceiling of the other, nastier part of the basement where I keep my personality and the circuit breaker panel.
I had to hunt around for stuff. I couldn’t afford to buy a single screw, so everything had to be found in the heap of jetsam I keep handy in case I want to build an atom smasher or fix a window screen. I found an old work box suitable for a lath and plaster wall, a 15-amp duplex outlet left over from a house I built in the ninth century, and a cover plate still in its wrapper that included the rarest of things in the history of construction: a usable center screw. I found some wire nuts wherever you find wire nuts. No one ever buys wire nuts. You just find them in your basement, like mildew.
Now for tools: I located a hefty hammer drill that never had its perpendicular handle and will break your wrist like Rex Kwan Do if you’re not careful, which I never am. I put a comically big 18″ auger bit labeled the “Nail Eater” in the chuck, and prepared to drill a hole through 1.75 inches of subfloor, a little bit of the carrying beam of the house, and the 1-3/4″ sole plate of the wall upstairs. The idea is that the auger will appear magically inside the wall at the bottom of the correct wall stud bay, directly under the outlet box I just installed. That’s what I was preparing to do, as I said. I was expecting to drill through my wife’s foot, or come up in the middle of the lawn like Larry Fine, or some such.
I had to turn off half the circuit breakers in the house because everything’s labeled like jars in the dissection room of a dyslexia museum and I have no idea if I’m turning off some guy’s iron lung across the street or a lamp in my living room.
I was getting ready to actually drill the hole, so I went upstairs to warn my wife that the “Nail Eater” might be coming her way, and I had no idea if they were referring to toenails or framing nails or what. And there, in the living room, was my 12-year old son, watching an ancient rerun of This Old House on streaming media on the TV because nothing else in the house will turn on. Tom Silva was explaining how to drill holes in framing lumber so as not to weaken them unduly when making holes for electricity or plumbing. My son was watching it the way teenaged boys watch girls at the beach. So I asked my son if he wanted to watch his father drill a great big hole in some framing lumber in order to install an electrical wire.
He said no.