The Stories

Shock the Monkey – Part 9: Misplaced Affections and Anarchy in the Streets


Click here to read this story from the beginning.

Brief Re-Cap: We have been waiting endless days for a contractor to show up and repair the death-potential factor of the damaged electrical wiring in our house, with said damage courtesy of an aggressive, ice-laden, big-ass neighbor tree limb that made a break for freedom during a freak snowstorm. At this particular point in the interminable interim, our snow-laden carport has just collapsed, mere seconds after some innate survival instinct prompted us to move the family vehicles to a more secure location…


  Once Partner and I get tired of staring at the erectile dysfunction of the depressingly-ruined carport, we wander back into the house. I’m extremely fed up by this stage in our doomed saga, done with Mother Nature and the rude happenstance of things I can’t control and, well, life in general. Our little contractor guy still hasn’t called back, so it’s time to pull out the phonebooks (did that just date our story?), scour websites (okay, not so dated), and attempt to locate someone who actually cares about our situation (a constant yearning throughout recorded history).

  I can’t stand trying to find service people to work on the house. Let me make that very clear: I’d rather shove my face in a vat of boiling acid than spend time on the phone with people I need who know I need them and therefore they have the upper hand, cruelly toying with my emotions as I whimper and beg. (“I will do anything to have you love me and move me to the top of your list. Anything.”)

  After an extended period of page-flipping and screen-scrolling and pointless bickering and dissatisfied grimacing, we settle on a company that seems to have the least irritating combination of crappy yellow-pages layout and sappy websites crammed with obviously-fake client testimonials from people that probably don’t exist. (Seriously, what real person would say “ABC Company saved my life! I’m naming my next child after them!” Girl, please.)

  Luckily, Partner takes the reins and calls this company. Sure, we can come out today. No problem, your satisfaction is our yearning desire. But since this is Saturday, it’s going to cost you three times the normal rate because it’s the weekend. That okay?

  Partner and I have a quick sidebar and decide that it’s most definitely not okay. Yes, I want this done, and I would prefer that it be done now. But if that damn power line hasn’t snapped after two days of pressure, it just might make it another two days. After a bit of negotiation, Partner makes the appointment for Monday morning, while I sit beside him all tragic and pale, a single tear sliding down my anguished cheek whilst mournful violins play in the background.

  The next 48 hours are something of a blur. The constant tension of waiting for the house to explode has taken its toll. My nerves are more frayed than something Miley Cyrus would barely wear to an awards ceremony wherein she hasn’t even been nominated. After mere hours, I am no longer capable of uttering complete sentences. I just grunt and point and hope that somebody, somewhere understands my needs.

  Finally, Monday morning arrives. Partner has departed for his place of employment, crunching through the now-dirty snow, leaving me to deal with the electrician who will peruse our domicile and then most likely proffer a cost estimate that exceeds the entire budget in one of the less-memorable countries. I drink a gallon of coffee to fortify myself for the challenge ahead.

  Surprisingly, there’s a knock on the front door right at the given appointment time. Automatically, I feel the first stirrings of emotional attachment to this company, because nobody ever shows up when they swear that they will. Opening said portal, I find a very well-groomed, admirably-clean, professional-appearing, middle-aged man, instead of the standard-issue, shifty-eyed guy or gal in rumpled and stained attire, reeking of questionable activities from the previous night. (“Why do you smell like desperation and lies?”)

  I might possibly be in love with him and we’ve only known each other for 7 seconds.

  We chit-chat for a bit at the door, getting the preliminaries out of the way, and then we tromp around the side of the house, fighting through the snow to the backyard. As we trudge along, conversing, it’s clear that this man is actually intelligent and has a great personality. It’s so refreshing after some of the Neanderthals we have dealt with in the past. I’m actually feeling a little inspired that there might be light at the end of the tunnel. (I’m even contemplating updating my Facebook relationship status to include him in some way.) Sadly, my ray of sunshine is cruelly extinguished as we arrive at the impact point.

  He takes a quick survey, and then turns to me in astonishment: “You guys actually still have power?”

  “Um, yes, we do. It’s a bit sketchy, but it’s working.”

  He turns back around for another review. “Your ground has been pulled.” Then he points at this metal thing that is hanging forlornly from the roof of the storage shed situated between the house and the pole in the alley. I gather from the startled sparkle in his eyes that said metal thing is not anywhere near where it would normally be.

  I know that electrical wires should be grounded, but that’s all I know. “What does this mean?”

  He turns back to me. “The house is alive. There’s a secondary ground that they attach to your plumbing, but that doesn’t take care of all of it.”

  Okay, wait. This is too much information. Let’s break it down. “What do you mean, the plumbing? It’s in the pipes?”

  “Yeah. The pipes.”

  “Soooo…. that would explain why I got shocked in the shower?”

  He laughs, finding this very entertaining. “Yeah, man. You’re gonna get a zap.”

  Our budding relationship is over. I no longer love him. It’s not funny that I almost died. “And you said the secondary ground doesn’t take care of all of it?”

  “Yeah, with the main ground gone, the only thing slowing the current are all the grounds that should be in all your sockets and switches, but you probably don’t have that in a house this old. The current is circling the house in a loop, hitting these grounds, but it’s not enough to stop it.”

  I think I may have wet myself at that point. “So, any time we turn on a light…”

  “You could get shocked. Or when you touch things attached to the plumbing. Or when you-”

  Hold up, that’s enough. “What needs to be done? How do we fix this?”

  He surveys a bit more, then “Well, we’ve got to replace your meter, and the weather guard, and the grounding network, and-”

  I don’t even know what all that means, so I focus on the important thing. “How much?

  “Two thousand.”

  Part of me dies inside. But he’s not done.

  “And because of the age of the house, we’re required to put in a shut-off valve on this wall here. You don’t have one. That’s another thousand.”

  Three thousand dollars. Because some stupid tree branch fell. And it’s not even our tree. It’s the neighbor’s tree. And he hasn’t been home this whole time, and therefore has not shared in the misery. I hate him and his stupid trees and his stupid house.

  The electrician looks at me. “So, you want us to do the work? We have to pull a permit, which means I can’t do it until tomorrow, but then it should only take a couple hours.”

  What the hell do you do in situations like this? We could maybe find somebody else to do it without such a financial wallop. But that means at least another day for an estimate, and another day to get it fixed. I’m so done with this. I just want to be able to pee without getting bucked off the toilet. I want my life back. I’ll find the three thousand somewhere, even if I have to whore out what’s left of my aging body. Or maybe Partner could whore his. He’s better with social interaction than I am.

  “Okay, let’s do it.”

  He grins. “Great. I’ll need half up front.”

  Sigh.

  We crunch our way through the snow and back into the house so I can get my checkbook. While I’m painfully filling out the check (it actually hurts to be writing so many numbers), the electrician is fiddling with an XBOX game that I had left on the kitchen table. He appears to be very stoked about the discovery, and he is trying to bond even further by babbling about video games. “What’s the best one you played?”

  I ignore that. We are no longer compatible, and the love is gone. We didn’t have a May-December romance. We barely had an 8am to 9am romance. I feel cheap and used. “Here’s your check.”

  He pockets the piece of paper quickly, lest I have second thoughts. “So, I’ll see you in the morning. Do I need to call first?”

  “Not unless you aren’t going to be here on time.” See, I’m already the bitter ex-girlfriend, full of venom and spite. Relationships are complicated, yes?

  He leaves.

  I immediately call Partner at his work. “Three. Thousand. DOLLARS!”

  “Well, we have to do it. We really don’t have a choice.”

  I’m not impressed with this response. I’m wanting outrage and a shared desire to riot in the streets and demand an end to the autocracy in this country that allows Big Business to crush the dreams of the little people like swatting flies at a summer picnic. Partner’s aims are just a little bit less lofty. (“It sounds like you might need to take one of your special pills and watch something meaningless on TV.”)

  Hmm. I find myself not being really appreciative of Partner at this moment, even though he’s right. (What else can we do? Apparently, when a tree falls in a forest, somebody does hear it, and the falling costs a lot of money.) I contemplate a number of bitchy responses, but I realize that none of them will get us anywhere respectable and I try to end the call with “Fine. Pick up some beer on your way home.”

  “Do you really think it’s a good idea to-”

  “Beer. Bring it. Bye.”

  So, the next morning, moderately hung-over, I greet my ex-boyfriend at the door, glaring at him with puffy eyes. He couldn’t care less, as he’s just here to do a job. But he does have some cautionary words. “The power is going to be off while I do this. And it will take a while.”

  Whatever. Just go.

  Two minutes later, everything shuts off in the house.

  I drag my ass into the bedroom, where there are lots of windows and the most natural light, and I pick up the latest book that I’m reading. Interestingly enough, this book is by Stephen King, entitled “Under the Dome”. It’s about people surviving in an unusual situation that they can’t control. How fitting. Stephen King gets me. Nobody else does. (Cue more violins on the soundtrack as I compose dark, self-involved, vengeful poetry in my head.)

  Three hours later, as I’m nodding off in my sanctuary on the bed, the power snaps on. A few minutes after that, the heater kicks in as well, but it doesn’t dim the lights. Has the madness finally stopped?

  The electrician knocks on the front door. All is well. Come take a look.

  More trudging through the snow, back to the scene of the crime. We now have a shiny new weather guard standing proudly on the roof, there’s a couple fancy boxes on the side of the house, and the power line is high in the air where it belongs. Hurray. Impending death no longer lurks on the ground.

  Back through the snow and into the house. I fill out a second painful check while the electrician fiddles with a box of Scentsy candles on the kitchen table. (“Your wife sell this?” Clearly, his gaydar is not functioning very well, despite the Madonna shrine in the corner of the den and the tasteful phallic art on the coffee table, but I don’t bother to correct him. “Uh, no, my sister does that.”) I hand him the check, there’s some more meaningless chatter, and then he’s gone.

  As silence and the delicious lack of people who don’t belong here finally descends on my fortress of solitude, I wander around the house, basically turning on everything that requires electrical current. There are no surging explosions or contact injuries. Good. As a final test, I hop in the shower, let myself get soaked, and then I cautiously reach for one of the faucet knobs. Nothing. No sensation other than the hardness of innocent metal. Hallelujah.

  I just stand there for a while, letting the hot, non-deadly water work its magic and sluice away the wretched residue of the last week. It’s going to be a long time before I feel clean again…


Originally published in “The Sound and the Fury” from 02/16/10 through 03/02/10. Considerably revised and extended for this new run here on Bonnywood. Thank you to the folks who had the grace and interest to absorb the entire saga, as I’m fully aware that lengthy, serialized scribblings don’t often succeed in our current sound-bite world. But I’m a firm believer that the story is in the telling, not in the packaging.

Cheers.

42 replies »

  1. So, all is sweetness and light- except for three grand down the shower drain, three grand that could have gone to the Car-port Renovation and Re-roofing Funding Scheme. Mother Nature do have her bitchy side though, and at least you didn’t receive forty thousand volts for your troubles. And yes, the tale benefits from an expansive telling.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Speaking of re-roofing and Bitchy Mother Nature and flashing forward to current times, our insurance adjustor, just yesterday, approved a claim to replace the roof, which had been walloped considerably in three successive hailstorms in March and April. (There’s nothing quite like the sound of strangers stomping around on your roof and trying to decide if you are worthy.) The financial joys of home ownership are overflowing, indeed…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The two lines that grabbed my attention in this post? “The house is alive” A terrifying diagnosis to be sure. And of course “ tasteful phallic art”. I might need a photo for proof.
    😉

    Liked by 2 people

  3. What a saga it is! And 3 thousand?! I can totally relate here in opposite land, where our AC stopped working two weeks ago in a heat wave. First it was the compressor, then it was Oh, your furnace is too old to be compatible with the new compressor, to the tune of 8 grand in total! At least I don’t have to worry about getting a shock when I turn on a fan (repairs won’t be finished until tomorrow)!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I definitely feel your pain. Over the quarter century I’ve been in this house, I’ve replaced the outside unit (three times!), replaced the inside unit (twice, with the second time including extra charges to install said unit in the attic, where we also replaced the insulation) and ALL of the ductwork once. That mess adds up and can easily make one a bitter person.

      On the flip side, all of these “improvements” have steadily brought down my electric bills (the summer bills are half what they used to be, despite the wretched Texas heat) so I suppose there’s a win somewhere in there.

      This bit of intel is too late for your current situation, and it may not even be available with your local providers, but: A few years ago, after yet another incident, we signed up for a “maintenance plan” with the company we generally use. For 150 bucks per annum, they come out twice a year and inspect both the AC and heating systems, cleaning both and tinkering with what needs to be tinkered. If anything goes wrong, they are responsible for the repairs and we only pay a trip charge for them to come out. Maybe something to check out?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. My heck! The tarnished silver lining to your budding novelette (in nine parts yet, I’m impressed. Truly) is that you remained unscathed through ALL of it. Well, save for your nerves. The folks who make those special pills are thankful too, because their stock just became worth a whole lot more! Like Rivergirl, who commented above, the words “The House Is ALIVE” sent a frisson of terror through my own nerves, courtesy of multiple viewings of “Hell House” and one of “The Amityville Horror”. I’d still have made plans to move…. Besides after that idiot neighbor got back from whatever sunny clime he fled to when snow threatened his zen, I suspect it would have been prudent to move. But I’d have made it plain that at least $1500 was HIS responsibility for not maintaining those trees, act of God or not. It probably would have made neighbor relations less than suitable…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Trust, we WANTED to pin some of the cost on the neighbor but, at least here in Texas, if a tree falls on your property, YOU are responsible for the damages, regardless of who actually owns the tree. It’s an annoying and wrong legal precedent, but I’m not surprised, since this state is run by Republicans and there is no concept of personal responsibility.

      As for the special pills, I’m fairly certain that what I’ve paid for my prescriptions of such over the years has most likely, single-handedly kept certain drug manufacturers solvent and profitable. It’s the American way!

      And yes, it’s spot-on to compare “The house is alive” line to a horror movie, as that’s what it felt like we were living in, a horror movie. Only our situation lasted a week instead of just two hours…

      Like

  5. I don’t quite understand “Your ground has been pulled” and “The house is alive”, but it sounds like you are going to be electrocuted if you don’t agree with this electrician. I mean big trees are always problems for houses. Does this usually happen when a tree falls on a house? It sounds dead serious.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, we had no choice but to go along with the recommendations of the electrician, because to do otherwise would have had us living in peril every day, and that’s just not a fun way to live.

      Interestingly enough, this is not the first time part of a giant tree fell on our property. There have been multiple other incidents, one of which involved half a tree falling onto the house itself and blocking the driveway, making it impossible for me leave the house until I climbed on the roof and spent two days chopping up that tree with a handsaw, which was all I had at the time. (We’ve since purchased a chainsaw.) Perhaps I need to write THAT story, hmm?

      Like

  6. Ug dealing with service people. I might pick them out but I let my husband deal with them. Too many condescending, chauvinistic attitudes for my liking. At least your guy made an effort. He was probably worth it in the end. Stress reduction is expensive. I know because I have written such cheques.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Our situation is the reverse, in that Partner usually picks out the technicians and then I do the physical interaction. I’m not a fan of either responsibility, but I especially don’t like cold-calling a company on the phone and then pleading my case. (I spent decades in the telecom industry, wherein I generally had a phone to my ear 90% of the time, often dealing with people I didn’t know and trying to convince them to do something they didn’t want to do. By the time I retired, I was sick of that stupid phone and stupid people. I rarely talk on the phone to this very day.) End result, I’M the one answering the doorbell.

      And yes, stress reduction is expensive, but the eventual peace of mind is worth it…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I thought I could enjoy your tale because it was not mine. But it was actually a trigger for some of my worst encounters. Just the specific details are different. But I did experience your range of emotions that you describe so well.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I do apologize if I inadvertently set off a trigger, as I have my own triggers that I don’t like tripped. That was not my intention at all. I was just trying to turn a wretched experience into a humorous lark, which is one of the things I do here at Bonnywood. But we can still be friends, yes?

      Like

      • It was indeed a very humorous and entertaining account. My own words inadvertently wandered away from conveying how much I enjoyed the post. This is not uncommon and I may need to learn more about proofreading which everybody is raving about.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I had never wondered about the shower zapping, either, with the concept not even seeming plausible until it happened. And I was slow to fully process this new intel, which is why I stupidly touched the knob AGAIN instead of instantly running for the hills, naked and screaming.

      I always eye our trees suspiciously, as they are enormous and (potentially) deadly. We actually had to have the biggest one removed (which hurt my heart) because it was SO massive that the trunk (which I could not reach my arms around) could no longer support the weight and was starting to fracture…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I once visited at an apartment in Rome: you weren’t ever supposed to stand in the bathroom with damp bare feet, needed to turn on the shower and jump back as the water thumped on, and oh, by the way, whatever you do, DON’T touch the shower faucets and the door to the washing machine at the same time. Italian home engineering at its finest. PS: The worst shock of all – the espresso maker had moss growing in the water container!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’m fairly certain that I would have mildly lost my mind in this questionable Rome apartment. Then again, I’ve LIVED in some dwellings that could easily compete with your scenario, so I guess it’s all about perspective and opportunities.

      But that moss in the espresso maker? Definite hard pass… 😉

      Like

  9. Wow, I’ve only been gone for a week but have missed so much! It does appear that all has turned out ok.  I so do love a happy ending (and all for only $3000)? Robert Kraft wishes!

    Now, I’m off to find my very own well-groomed, admirably-clean, professional-appearing, middle-aged man, instead of the standard-issue, shifty-eyed guy in rumpled and stained attire, reeking of questionable activities from the previous night. Perhaps I’ve been doing it wrong all along.  Exactly how does one go about finding those magical, mysterious yellow pages these days?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. We still get “yellow pages” directories delivered to the house, usually tossed on our driveway every three or four months. But none of them are the “traditional” directories that used to be published by the actual phone companies until they no longer became profitable to print. (I used to work for General Telephone/Verizon and they used to have a HUGE division dedicated to the production of the books. By the time I retired, the printed books had been gone for years.) These new versions are much more slender, with scant entries, and are obviously ineffectual crap. As such, they are promptly thrown in the recycling bin without a second thought…

    As for finding decent service techs, it took us years to whittle things down to a satisfactory level, trying and discarding a string of lame-ass businesses. But now we finally have dependable contacts for our plumbing, HVAC, electrical and lawn-card dilemmas, so all is relatively good… 😉

    Like

  11. Recently my parents had to have their septic tank pumped, somehow unknown to anyone involved, the wire that carries electricity to their storage building was nicked. Tank work done, recovered and everyone is happy. A couple days later my parents have no water. Turns out there is only half the electricity reaching the were it should go. They call me to come down-I live next door- to show the well people were the lines were that were uncovered in the prior service. The wires are located, I go home. Within a short time my folks are forking out nearly a thousand dollars because of a septic tank that hadn’t been pumped in thirty years. Oh, and one of the scummy looking well people, asked my mother if I were single. She told them I was a “widda woman” and they dropped it. They know when they have you in a position where you have no choice but obey and pay.

    Liked by 1 person

    • First, I know full well the warped entanglements of having a septic tank. As a youngster, when my family moved to the rural outskirts of Broken Arrow, OK, we had a septic tank and there was never any joy about that situation. Luckily, it wasn’t too long before we were connected to the “modern” plumbing network of the city. But for years after, the grass was always greener over the septic tank, if you don’t mind the Erma Bombeck reference.

      Second, yep, I hear ya on the “obey and pay”. It’s not fair that, when we are subjected to a situation that we can’t finesse on our own, we have to deal with folks who know that we can’t deal, and they have the upper hand. Such is the world of capitalism… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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