Curtis Current settles in with a good book on Friday night. After a busy week, he’s happy to take this time to relax. The phone starts ringing right when he’s opened to the first page of his mystery novel.
“Hello,” Curtis says hesitantly. He is starting to wish he’d turned his phone off when he came home.
“Curtis, this is Gene from Buffalo Bill’s Sports Bar. We have an emergency. The power just went out during the fight tonight. I’ve got 100 angry customers asking for their door money back. Can you be here in five?”.
Curtis sighs. He’s never going to figure out “whodunit” at this pace. He packs his tool kit and tool belt in the truck. Tool kits generally include tools such as screwdrivers, pliers, knives, wire strippers, drills, conduit benders (for redirecting metal conduit), voltmeters (for measuring voltage), ohmmeters (for measuring electrical resistance) and harmonics testers (for gauging currents and power quality). Half of the job involves just being able to lift all of those tools out of the back of your truck.
The bar is quite a scene when Curtis arrives. People are shouting at Gene, someone throws popcorn at the television and security is escorting an individual off the premises. It’s possible this guy threw more than just popcorn.
Excuse me while we eat the evidence.
Gene looks grateful when he sees Curtis.
“Thank God you’re here. These people are animals,” Gene says.
“Ok, let me take a look at the circuit breaker,” Curtis says.
Curtis walks downstairs to the dark basement of the bar He uses a volt stick to see if the electricity has been turned off and that there is no current running through them. He has a close bond with his volt stick, but he’d still rather it take the brunt of a live current rather than chance it himself. When it comes to working with electricity, you can never be too cautious. Also, it is important when working with an upset client to avoid allowing their emotional state to stress you out. Stress causes stupid mistakes, which can occasionally lead to death in this line of work. If you are personally prone to stupid mistakes… might be something to keep in mind.
After Curtis concludes that the wires are dead, he tests the circuit breaker for an overload using a clamping ammeter. He clamps the ammeter to a single wire. It would register as “positive” for an overload or short in the circuit.
Curtis shines his flashlight on the circuit breaker. He doesn’t see any damage, but he is starting to get an idea of what is going on. He takes a whiff of the circuit breaker. Sure enough, the circuit breaker smells like something is burning. Since there is no bakery in the vicinity, it likely can’t be traced back to someone absent-mindedly leaving a tray of muffins in an oven.
Have you seen the muffin man?
Lately, the town has been experiencing humid weather. Extreme humidity can damage circuit breakers. “This thing definitely needs replacing,” Curtis thinks.
He goes upstairs to break the bad news to Gene. Gene is handing five-dollar bills out at the door to people leaving. Curtis feels bad when Gene’s eyes light up the second he sees him.
“Hey, let me give you the good news first. I know what the problem is and I am able to write you up an estimate. The bad news is that it will take me a couple of hours to replace your circuit breaker.”
“Yes, whatever it takes. This night is done for me anyways,” Gene says despondently.
Curtis works into the night replacing the circuit breaker. He is able to get the power back on before the food in the bar’s refrigerator goes bad. Going on fumes at this point, he heads home, gives his novel a sad look as if to say, “I’ll get to you one day,” and then drops into bed.
In the morning, he checks his appointment book. He visits a preschool, a residence and a carwash all before noon. Regular check-up and maintenance-type stuff. During his lunch hour, he runs into his friend Bob, a journeyman electrician. Bob and Curtis perform many of the same duties, except Bob cannot design systems until he qualifies for his master’s license. Curtis tells Bob about the night before.
“Wow. I would have been sweating bullets working amid an angry mob,” Bob says.
“It wasn’t too bad,” Curtis says. “I was in the basement most of the time. Mostly I just felt sorry for Gene.”
They part ways and Curtis visits his last job of the day. His client is remodeling his house and needs to have his addition wired. While Curtis mainly works answering commercial calls, he has started to branch out into remodeling. Today, he needs to snake a wire through a finished wall and install an additional service panel. When wiring additions to homes, electricians generally have to install one of these panels to keep up with the extra power demands. It takes him the rest of the day, but his client is pleased with his work.
Curtis finally makes it home to start on that mystery novel. Once again he is interrupted by an emergency call.
“The real mystery is when will I get time to start on this novel,” Curtis thinks as his truck pulls out of the driveway.