I flipped on the bathroom light switch yesterday afternoon, the vanity lights flicked on, and then went dark. I flipped the switch a couple times with no results. I figured it wasn’t the bulbs, because all three incandescents wouldn’t pop simultaneously.
Well I was getting ready to do the show last night, and didn’t have time to deal with it. And I knew it would probably be an ordeal.
This morning I rolled out of bed, padded outside to the circuit box and flipped switches. The bathroom remained dark. I pulled out the circuit breaker to see if ants were in it. Nope. Then I dropped the screw that secures the power cable. I spent 15 minutes looking for it in the bushes, which was pointless.
The farmhouse was built in 1907, before electricity made it to town. When power was put into the house they ran the cables on the outside of the walls, and strung them like telegraph wire through the attic.
The wiring for the bathroom is tied into the wiring for the back porch, which also wasn’t working, and twisted together with wire nuts in a cupboard in the kitchen.
I killed the house power and took apart the wiring in the cupboards. Re-twisted the connections. Flipped the circuit breaker. Nada.
Took apart the wires and then took a light bulb and held it next to the two feed wires. No light.
Bad news. That means the problem is in the attic.
I haven’t been in the attic in years. Don’t really want to go in the attic. But, no choice now.
I moved all the bags of Christmas decorations and boxes of old model railroads out of the closet, climbed into the attic, and was immediately drenched in south Texas attic heat and 98 percent humidity.
Also discovered we’ve had mouse visitors.
I crawled along the cross beams, careful not to put weight on the floorboards which are the house ceiling, and traced the suspect wire. After beating it with a stick to find loose connections, I returned downstairs to test the circuit again.
And there was light.
Back in the air conditioned kitchen I installed an outlet box in the cupboard, rewiring all the connections to the bathroom and the back porch.
I replaced the circuit breaker with a new one and decided to add another circuit to the house so we can plug in room heaters during the winter without running extension cords between the front room and bedrooms.
Adding the second circuit required scooting on my back under the house and running exterior electric cable from the box at the rear of the house to the floor outlet under my office.
Again back in the house I took my office outlet off the cable dropping from the attic and wired it into the new cable I shoved up from the crawlspace.
Everything wired together, circuits flipped on, and the house lit up beautifully.
When I showered the drain clogged with mud, insulation, wood chips, feathers, schmutz.
But none of that was what I planned to do today.
I needed to mow the lawn at the house we’re borrowing to film ABRUPT DECISION. We’re getting the house for ‘free’ in exchange for mowing the lawn, replacing the burned out light bulbs, and paying a month’s utility bill.
The light bulbs cost over 100 bucks. The house has a gazillion recessed lights, and those spot and flood bulbs ain’t cheap.
The lawn, as I surveyed it this afternoon, was more jungle than lawn. Grass taller than me. Trashberry trees coming up everywhere. Stick-tights as big as tumbleweeds. Into the ‘lawn’ I pushed and discovered scraps of metal, boards, bricks, rocks, chunks of concrete, chain, cable, pots, metal hanging baskets, plastic bags.
The lawn mower choked and squealed through it all. Dying frequently, smoking heavily, I may have killed it tonight.
After two and a half hours I surrendered.
Tomorrow morning I’ll go back with shears and clippers to take down the weed trees.
Being a filmmaker is dirty work.
We film in 12 days.