electricity.
© 1996 Jamie Zawinski <jwz@jwz.org>


My last apartment did not have an electrical system which one would (even liberally) describe as ``up to code.''

For example, if I ran my microwave at the same time that my upstairs neighbors were drying their clothes, the whole house would shut off. Trying to coordinate these sorts of activities was something of a pain, especially since the house had fuses rather than circuit breakers, and since the power went off so regularly, we often ran out of fuses at inopportune times.

Finally, our landlord agreed to do something about the power problem, and sent out some electricians to look at it. The response of these electricians was, basically, ``this house is so far out of code we're not even allowed to touch it.'' This was followed by a laundry list of required items including replacing all of the wiring.

When this message was passed on to my landlord, her response was, ``oh, they all say that, they're just a bunch of crooks.''

Yet there we were, sitting in the dark a lot of the time.

Finally she took additional action, which was to send out her Idiot Son to replace the fuse box. It's not clear what electrician-oriented training the Landord's Idiot Son had, beyond the fact that he owned a truck, but we were still young and naive about this whole tenant-landlord thing.

Things then went from bad to worse, for while we now had circuit breakers instead of fuses, we were also having power failures far more frequently. It seemed that a microwave alone would trip the circuit breakers if it was on for more than thirty seconds.

(And remember that the whole house would go dark -- although there were several circuit breakers in the box, and some of them even seemed to be attached, there was only one that really mattered, for that was the one that the entire house was routed through.)

So, after a week or two of complaining, the Landlord's Idiot Son returned. His solution to the fact that the power kept going out? Put in higher rated circuit breakers until the problem went away! Boy, that made us feel really safe. But what were we to do? Eventually he got up to 30 or 35 amps, and the power would stay on. Though the lights would dim if you even looked at them funny.

The hot tub, of course, would periodically stop working with a burnt-out engine or something. The neighbors would periodically get it fixed; I had long since given up on it, since they also never did their share of cleaning it.

One day I was working from home, when the power went out. Then came back on again a second later. Then went out again. I leaned out the kitchen window and what did I find but a fratboy flipping circuit breakers willy-nilly. ``Stop that,'' I suggested. ``Uh, the hot tub doesn't work,'' he countered. Oh, well that's ok then. My disk probably won't be that corrupted.

Eventually a new nest of fratboy law students moved in (it was never clear exactly when the changing of the guard occurred; I think that they were all friends-of-friends. Once you get fratboy law students, it seems, you can never get rid of them. They're like roaches.)

So this next batch would occasionally ask me for my share of the bill, but then eventually they stopped. I didn't notice for a long time; since the bill was no longer in my name, it wasn't a big concern to me any more. Every now and then it would occur to me that I hadn't been being asked for my share, and I would make a mental note to ask them about it, but I never got around to it.

Well then one day I was sitting at my desk working, when I heard someone thrashing through the bushes outside my kitchen window. I climbed up on the sink and opened the window, giving the bedraggled santa-claus-like man I found there a good scare.

So he turned off the power, and I went upstairs and vented at the first fratboy I could find. It was, as expected, ``not his fault.'' Well, two or three days later, they finally got the power turned back on, and finally asked me for my share of the electric bill for the previous year.

I moved about two months later. And there was much rejoicing.


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