Saturday, June 20, 2015


We have been doing a lot of work on our house this year. A large portion of that work is being done by ourselves, even though, most of the time, we don't actually know how to do it. Chutzpah! Sometimes we learn how, sometimes we make it up, sometimes it ends in tears, sometimes it ends in triumph, but most of the time we include all of those ingredients in the soup.

I will tell you today about replacing a GFCI outlet. Not so that you can learn how. Clerkmanifesto is not a University, it's a, um, er, it's a, well, hmm, let's see. It's a lost ship, encrusted heavily with barnacles, going somewhere very, very, very special. But you'll always have to wait until we get there to know where exactly that is, and to my repeated surprise, we do get there on an average of two times a week.

But, alas, we must always leave once again.

Our GFCI outlet broke. Why? We are doing so much hard work and redesigning on our house that it seems cruel to have something one hardly considers fallible breakdown and need to get added to our to be done list. But more cruel things happen all the time, particularly as regards our house redesign. So we thought about getting the electrician back out. But then we thought maybe I could replace it. So I gave it a go.

I studied. I watched multiple YouTube videos. I got pretty clear on the concepts. And though the whole thing looked straightforward and clear, our house is old and strange. Opening things up reveals mysteries that can never be fully answered. And so it was this time. A GFCI outlet is generally going to have three wires running into it, or maybe five if it's protecting a line.  I was prepared for a small touch of confusion, but when I turned off the electricity and pulled the outlet out of the wall not only was the outlet faintly bizarre in its construction, but it tucked into an electrical box of outlandish complexity. Dozens of wires ran rampant around our outlet. Strange colors and unusual joining mechanisms conspired to give it a look out of Frankenstein's Lab, if the lab was built in 1962, by an Igor who was working on a restrictive budget.

I threw up my hands in despair. We prepared to call the Electrician.

But then I had a thought: What if really, at heart, it is secretly just three wires, all simply shrouded mysteriously in the form of dozens of wires.

And so it was. It was like a slipknot of wires. I started to disassemble them and before long they had collapsed themselves down to being three wires. Some of their colors were, um, old fashioned, but I was able to work out what was what with a full 70% confidence. I put it all together, popped it in the wall, and it worked as it was supposed to.

The unbridled joy and exaltation I felt at this triumph was at least partly informed by the fact that I was not electrocuted to death, which was almost as good in its own right as being able to plug in our new nightlight.

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