The Unswung Bat

Thursday, April 06, 2006
Holy Smokes!

The kitchen just exploded in front of my face. This happened in reality, it did, just a moment ago. Happened with a loud electrical pop, an arching line of fire that lept four whole feet, from the sink to the fridge, and in the arm's length between that fridge and my nose, a white sparking firework went off—bang!—sending crackling streamers to the floor, like what you see on tv shows when a power line comes down. It seemed a hot lightbulb or a small bomb had detonated from out of thin air.

Somewhere in the instants just after the bang, the conflagration seized the entire room, which echoed and reiterated the pop and flash and obliterated itself in a shower of incandescent destruction. All around me, except the outlines of linoleum directly below the soles of my feet, was ashy ruin.

And then the sparks faded and the kitchen was intact and as white as it ever was. Dazzled, my arm still outstretched to reach for the box of tea on top of the fridge, I was left with nothing to show for my fantastic vision except a yoghurt container in the sink bottom slightly warped by heat, and a dent in the sink's steel basin that inexplicably followed the ridge of the yoghurt container's base.

I was relieved to come up with a more scientific explanation (we wired our own ground circuit to surge through the cold water pipe into the earth) than "ball lightning." Cold water pipes are supposed to be safe things to do this with because they go straight into the ground, but I think at some point our pipes must cross or contact, and we therefore should rethink our electrical strategy.

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