Thursday, March 01, 2007

Clean What?

The Boot Squad (my group of writer friends that's an offshoot of the overall Hobnail Boot Squad, aka Central Pennsylvania Romance Writers) is coming over tomorrow for our monthly lunch. I told them I wasn't going to clean. They're the kind of women who are cool with that.

But there's "cleaning" and then there's cleaning. I swept the kitchen but didn't mop it. Vacuumed the living room but didn't dust. That kind of thing.

The kitchen needed the most work. While I was doing the counters, I realized I still hadn't swapped out the outlets. This was the last bit to do in our kitchen remodel. The one we did three years ago. I just kept taking out those outlets and putting them away, because it was a pain to go downstairs and shut off the breaker.

But I thought it would be nice to get rid of the ugly old dirty outlets, so I made the effort. (There was a problem with the second one, so I just cleaned it best I could and left it alone).

I've changed outlets before. It's not hard. Unscrew the face plate, unscrew the outlet, unhook the wires, hook the wires to the new outlet, screw it back in, replace the face plate. No problem, right?

Not in this house.

Someday I'll regale you with the stories of how NOTHING in this house was done the way it was supposed to be originally, or how we otherwise encounter issues when trying to update/upgrade/remodel.

So I got the old outlet out. I attach the ground wire, the bottom left wire, the two top left wires, and the bottom right wire. The top right two wires are very thick and don't want to both fit around the screw. I spent nearly half an hour trying, while I'm stretched across the top of the stove. I had to change from my sweater to a tank top I was sweating so bad. I couldn't see because the sun was starting to set and of course the power was off. I used needlenose pliers to tighten the curve of the wires. I needed more space, so I forced the screw a little looser.

Of course I went too far.

Of course the screw came off.

Of course the frakkin' thing fell behind the stove.

I briefly considered using a screw off the old outlet, but since they weren't exactly the same, thought I better not if I could help it. So I pulled out the stove.

On the plus side, I was able to clean the giant nest of dog hair, old dog biscuit, battery, and yellow marker out from under the stove. It was also easier to reach the outlet.

On the minus side, it was also easier to gouge my scalp on the corner of the cabinet. Three times.

I retrieved the screw, pressed it into the smaller curve of the wires, and started to screw it in.

Except the damned wires were so thick, the screw wouldn't reach the hole.

So, yeah, I used the screw off the old outlet after all.

When I came out from behind the stove, I saw the the side of it on the "prep" counter side had crumbs and drips and streaks all down the side of it.

So there you go. I wasn't going to clean at all, but now the cleanest thing in my house is the side of the stove that will never, ever be seen.

But my outlet looks pretty.


Erica Orloff said...


Love this story, Natalie.

My house is what can affectionately be termed, in Slavic parlance, as tchotcke heaven. I can't friggin' help it. So no, nothing gets perfectly clean except on Tuesdays when my brilliant and wonderful housekeeper comes. And I would rather cut out food from my budget than give her up. :-)

WarT0rn said...

Hey Nuj. Great story. Didn't know you were so knowledgeable about electricity. I'm impressed!

Victoria said...

Your outlets were very lovely. :)

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

I hear you, Erica! I miss our cleaning person. I gave her up to write full time. But even then, they wouldn't move stuff if there were more than half a dozen things on a surface, and I have picture frames EVERYWHERE.

Eh, it's not that hard, Eric. The key is turning off the electricity before you start. :)

Thanks, V! LOL

Anonymous said...

Being the wife of a master electrician and the answerer of many panicky phone calls, I had read this with one eye covered and the other kind of squinted. I'm so glad you're not crispy.

And I'm not even going to think about what might be behind my stove.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

LOL, Shannon. Don't worry, I'm careful. And I was going to change the GFCB too, but it wouldn't pull out far enough for me to align all the wires properly and it was complicated so I left it. Be proud of me. :)