Friday, March 28, 2008

Electrical Science experiments

My friend in high school was the son of an electrician. That came in handy once. We were having a party at someone’s house. Somebody got drunk. Maybe most people did. One person fell over the couch and hit the electrical plug for the record player, breaking the wires. Without the music, the party was in trouble. Well, not too much. Mostly, people started laughing. Most everyone was well into the “necking on the floor” mode by then and not listening to music. The music was handy to “cover” the kissing and smacking going on. I hear my name frantically called by one of the girls. My friend has about 3 beers in him and a mischievous grin on his face. He has declared that he will “fix” that record player. He’s pulled out his knife. His date for the evening is not real comfortable about this. She doesn’t know us very well. I get over there and he explains that while he has had a few beers, he is still quite capable of fixing the electrical plug. He gives me a wink and a nod to his dates partially open blouse. I know he is about the only person at the party that can fix the plug. I put it together that he is NOT as soused as he wants the date to believe. As long as she thinks he is half soused, he can always blame the beers for anything that she thinks gets out of hand! So I go about explaining to his girl that he probably isn’t too drunk, that he can fix it and let’s leave him alone. She isn’t too sure, but I get her to sit on the couch with me for a minute. It’s not two minutes later and errrRRRRWA….the Rolling Stone’s
You Can’t Always Get What You Want, starts back up. The people start cheering. He jumps up from where he’s been crouched down fixing it, doing a Rocky Balboa dance two YEARS before the movie comes out. I glance back to see what he did. He cut the entire plug off! With a pocket knife. He then had stripped back both wires and stuck the bare wires back into the wall socket. OSHA compliant it wasn’t.

Fun with Electricity, part II. The school used to place everyone in the same grade, on the same halls for their lockers. Freshmen on these two halls, sophomores on these. One year, our class was mostly in the science hallway. There are some issues with this hall. It’s in the lower level of the building, mostly underground. I guess they figured that with the Bunsen burners and science experiments taking place down stairs, they have more chance of killing the kids in the English or history classes meeting above them, when we catch the place on fire. The head of the science department looks like Zelda Rubinstein from the movie Poltergeist.

Except this teacher wore a starched white lab coat and black horn-rimed glasses. Maybe they were safety glasses and she never took them off. I never had her, but kids that did, said she was a very good teacher, just no-nonsense. We excelled in nonsense. During passing time between classes, she patrolled “her” hallway. Keep It Moving, was a key phrase. You remember Zelda’s walk in the movie? She probably copied it from this science teacher. Quite a waddle. Like her underwear was as starched as her lab coat.

A different friend, a VERY deviant type, was usually pulling some wild prank. He’d been experimenting with foil gum wrappers. Back in the 1970’s, they didn’t have any paper in them and the foil was about twice as thick as it is now. Holy Great Electrical Conductors, Batman! He’d been experimenting with folding these wrappers up into a tight thin strip. Which you then folded a few times until it was thick enough to stay lodged in an electrical outlet. He’d then fold them into an L shape, like a hockey stick. This way, you could insert them into an electrical plug and not give yourself a shock. He’d wind up with two wrappers sticking out of the plug, just ready for something to hit them and get a shock. One day, he decides that he’s had enough of Zelda and “move along”. Time for action. Totally inappropriate action, but action none the less. There are no lockers at the very end of the hall, but there is an electrical outlet. There are a lot of people about also, so crouching down to insert your gum wrappers in the electrical socket, can work. My friend is one of the shorter kids in the class, so he can vanish even quicker in a sea of kids. He dashes down and sets up the wrappers. What can be used to short them? We had trash cans. We had big trash cans in the hall. Like the one’s you use to put trash out to the street in. Metal. Galvanized metal. This thing

He takes it, half full of trash, positions it in front of the gum wrappers stuck in the electrical outlet and shoves it to short them. Except he uses his shoes, which are sneakers and rubber, so he doesn’t get the shock. ZZZIIIIITTTTT!!!! Smoke and the electrical burning smell flood the end of the hall. The lights flicker about two times and then the hall is totally dark! Remember, this part of the building is mostly underground, so there isn’t much light left. People start trampling up the stairs pretty quick. We hear a bellowing from the-teacher-that-looks-like-Zelda, “WHAT IS GOING ON HERE!” My crazy friend yells out a line from Moby Dick. “THAR SHE BLOWS!!!” You just thought the hall was clearing quickly. In 4 more seconds, the entire hallway is empty except for Zelda and a smoking trash can.

I think the janitor got the lights back on about five minutes later. There was an announcement over the PA that everyone with a class on the science hall, should be reporting to class. That an investigation as to why the science hall had a complete electrical failure, will start immediately. I returned to the hall at the end of the day, to get something from my locker. I slowly walked past the scene of the crime. The trashcan had a black mark burned into it. The electrical socket was burned.

They never caught him. I don’t think they knew where to begin.

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