Ghosts in the Machines

You’re probably wondering how the Electrical Exorcism went. Ever since I moved back in here, the lights by the front door have been going on and off at random. Jamie the excitable electrician couldn’t figure out the problem. So we finally called in Kevin, the legendary Electrical Ghostbuster, to solve the problem. Jamie has told me many times (Jamie does tend to repeat himself. Often) how Frank Sinatra had a light that kept going on by itself, and Kevin was the only one who could find the culprit–a rechargeable razor. Every week or so, when Jamie had tried yet another futile solution for my lights, he’d tell me The Story of Frank Sinatra’s Razor. When all else had failed, it was time to call Kevin.

My assistant, Paula, was a few minutes late that day, which meant I had to let Jamie in. Jamie was even more excited than usual. “Kevin will find the problem! Kevin has an oscilloscope! I don’t have an oscilloscope because they cost six thousand dollars! Kevin will be here any moment! He always finds the problem. Because he has an oscilloscope! Did I tell you about Frank Sinatra’s razor?” I was in the other room when he spotted Kevin’s truck pulling in. “Oh, good! He’s wearing pants!” Since I didn’t want to know what that meant, I decided to let Paula handle things and hid in my office.

Kevin, it turns out, is as mellow as Jamie is wired, but they both like to explain things. Everything. I could hear them roaming around the house. Kevin: “We’ll go through this door…. Then we’ll go into the garage…. Then we’ll open the panel…. Then we’ll turn off the circuit breakers….” Jamie: “That’ll work! That’ll turn the power off right away!” Jamie could hardly contain himself around the oscilloscope. He insisted on bringing me from my office all the way to the garage to look at the little screen. Sure enough, they found noise on the lines, and the intrepid duo was off to track it down. Kevin: “First we’ll test the dining room…. Then the kitchen…. Then the living room….” Jamie: “Then we’ll find the problem! We’ll find the problem right now! At Frank Sinatra’s house it was the razor!”

They narrowed it down to something in my bedroom. They asked Paula if I had any “other” electrical things. Like what, she asked. Kevin explained that sometimes women have “certain” electrical appliances they don’t want their husbands to know about. I do wonder, if I had this hypothetical secret item I didn’t want my non-existent husband to know about, would I tell my assistant??? At any rate, they finally discovered it was the neon sculpture on the wall that was causing the noise, and they insisted I come over and look at the oscilloscope to see for myself. (The sculptor, Lili Lakich, says everyone always blames the neon. Doesn’t that sound like a great name for a sleazy detective story set in Las Vegas–“Blame the Neon”?)

There was general relief and jubilation. I suggested we check my other neon sculpture, just in case, so we sent Jamie down to turn it on. Jamie: “It’s off!” Me: “Turn it on, Jamie.” Jamie: “It’s not working! It’s not turning on at all! Unless it’s very faint neon that you can’t see?” Me: “Jamie, didn’t you turn that circuit breaker off?” Jamie: “That’s right! This circuit breaker is off! That’s why it’s not working!” A short pause. Me: “Jamie, turn the circuit breaker on!” Jamie: “OK!”

We put filters on the problem areas, and the ghosts seem to be gone. I found out why we were relieved Kevin showed up wearing pants–he arrived at Mr. Sinatra’s house in a Speedo bathing suit and flipflops (Have I told you about Frank Sinatra’s razor?). I may buy an oscilloscope, just to make Jamie envious.

Just when the excitement over the electrical episode was dying down, the Jaguar service department reared its ugly head. Sam the service representative called to say the part for the seat was in (my driver’s seat was shifting slightly on turns–they’d ordered the part months ago). So we took it in, and they discovered they needed a different part. Time passed. Finally Sam called to say the part was in, and it would be fixed that day. Later he called to say UPS had delivered the part, but they weren’t sure exactly where it was. Paula asked who had signed for it. Well, as a matter of fact, Sam had, but he couldn’t remember exactly where he’d put it. Finally the car was ready and we brought it home.

The first time I drove it, the seat belt was very hard to fasten. I looked down and noticed it looked different from the one on the passenger’s side. Driving down the road at 30 MPH, it popped open. Back to the shop. Well, it turned out that when they fixed the seat, they needed to put a new “female part” of the seat belt on, and it wasn’t compatible with the old “male part.” They tried to install a new male part, but that wasn’t compatible with the side of the car. However, Jaguar would absolutely guarantee that it wouldn’t release in an accident. This was very reassuring to me, however I wanted a seat belt that wouldn’t release while driving slowly down the street, too. Call me picky.

They decided they were going to give it some thought. The idea of Sam, much less the entire service department, thinking is scary enough, and god knows I’ve had my share of incompatible male parts–this was starting to sound like a problem that wasn’t going to get solved. I had Paula call the manager of the service department. Yes, he was aware of the problem, and he supposed it was a little harder to fasten the belt now. It was no problem for him, mind you, and they would try to fix it, but it was probably just that I’m a woman, you know, and afraid of breaking a fingernail or something.
You probably don’t want to go near Hornburg Jaguar in the next few days. I’m going to go over and meet the service manager and have him tell me face to face that the problem is not that his guys screwed up my car and have no way to fix it, but that I’m a woman and incapable of successfully operating a seat belt. It could get ugly. I might break a nail.

Meanwhile, Paula called him back (he’s now been on the phone to England and god only knows what circumvented plot they’ve been hatching. Replace the side of the car, which then won’t be compatible with the back? Weld the seat belt shut so it won’t accidentally release?). She asked him why they don’t just take the frog (metal part on the end of the belt) that works and put it on the other belt. They were dumbstruck–what a great idea!

Hope you are well, your seat belt works, and any ghostbusters you call arrive wearing pants. Let’s do lunch. I’ll be driving the Ford.
Names changed: “Sam”–he means well…

Copyright 1997 by Janine Smith. Not to be reproduced or distributed without permission