When it comes to electricity, I was a Ben Franklin wannabe. Only I had the modern convenience of electric sockets. I didn’t have to wait for a thunderstorm; I could fly a kite into a socket anytime – day or night.
Either I wasn’t a bright child, or I had the need to recharge my batteries often. My mother used bobby pins and they made great conductors. Who knows what inspired me, but when I learned to walk, I immediately made a mental connection between hairpins and outlets. I would tiptoe down the hall, retrieve a bobby pin from mom’s roller basket, and head for the hall outlet.
The scoundrel in the outlet popped me before I got the pin fully in the socket. I let out a wail. I’m sure my first encounter was an umm …shock… to my parents. But by this time it had become so common place that I had to lay there and scream for ten minutes before anyone would come and resuscitate me. Sometimes my mom would holler down the hallway something heartless. Words like, “What did you think was going to happen? If it bit you yesterday, it’s going to do it again today. When are you going to learn to stop doing that?”
Didn’t she understand? This was personal. That beast in the socket was not getting the best of me. I just needed to re-strategize. I staggered into the kitchen and saw something perfect for my war with the socket. Mom was cleaning and I noticed that Formula 409 made a heavy stream each time she sprayed it. That was it! I could attack from a distance.
I tiptoed down the hall the next morning, but this time I passed the curlers and went for the jet propulsion unit. Bottle in hand, I sneaked back to the hall and took careful aim. My first shot fell short. I didn’t have the thumb power to get a good stream. I moved closer and pushed the pump with all my 3-year-old thumb strength. A stream of cleaning solution hit like a bulls-eye. There was the sound of a pop and that rascal in the outlet fired back before I could smell the scent of victory. Boiling hot 409 sprayed back out and spewed onto my hand. It went in with a light tint, but came out black. And hot. Add in a little AC Current for good measure, and I was wailing for CPR again.
I remember seeing what looked like chocolate drops on the back of my hand. Painful chocolate. And not nearly as tasty.
I never did get the best of that sneaky monster in the socket, but I finally gave up the war. But try as I might, the electrons kept following me. It was about a year later and I was playing at a friend’s house. He had a lot of neat toys, but one caught my eye over the rest. It was a painted metal airplane. To this day, I don’t know what the prongs were supposed to be for, but I did learn what they weren’t for.
When I rotated the plane over, it had two metal prongs that looked just like a plug for an outlet. My four-year-old mind began to reason. This must be an electric powered toy. I wonder what it does? I began to envision lights and spinning propellers. What a great toy this must be. How a painted piece of metal could do these things, I didn’t know. But I was going to find out. I skipped to the outlet, and without a second thought, I shoved it in. There was a loud pop. A sound I had heard often. But along with the pop, the lights went out. I pulled the toy out of the plug, but the lights didn’t come back on. Then the door flew open and I hid the plane behind my back.
“Did someone put something in the outlet?” my dad said. What could have given him that crazy idea? In the distance I heard a click and the lights came back on.
“What’s going on in here?” another voice said as adults poured into the room like ants.
“Nuthin,” my friend said. “We’re just playing.”
I knew what had happened, but I agreed with my pal. Then his dad saw the outlet. “What happened there?” he said as he pointed to the wall behind me. It was more like an accusation than a question. I turned to see black burn marks stretching up from the socket. I looked at my toy and noticed it had matching black marks. “Did you plug that into the outlet?”
I’d been had. There was no denying the evidence. I looked at the toy again, then up to the adults and said, “Nuh-uh.” My mother snatched it from my hands and a black residue was on my fingers.
“Eddie! You could have been killed,” she said in horror.
How did she know it was me? And I didn’t even have a bobby pin on me.
I managed to survive many encounters with electrons. I was nearly knocked unconscious by an electric fence and am probably the only person who has ever blown up an electric blanket. But it was all in the name of science.
Now you know where I get my bright ideas and incredible short-term memory loss.