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Blazes of Glory

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Electrical fires can be pretty funny sometimes.

I know what you’re thinking, “Jenny? You’re nutzo. A nicely-dressed nutzo, but still…”

Today a friend came into work after having to deal with a fussy car battery and it reminded me of one of my favorite ‘funny-moments-that-you-could-have seen-on-an-episode-of Friends’ times.  I like those memories.

Now, it’s been a while since this funny-times memory actually happened, just shy of 14 years, I think, so the quality of the story (a.k.a. actual facts) may be affected. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying a hearty laugh and perhaps, if you were there, a jovial trip down memory lane. : )

During my sophomore year in college at Chico State, I was lucky enough to live smack dab on Warner Street, right in between West Sacramento Avenue and Legion Avenue.  Our little college-gal home faced the field at Chico High and every morning, droves of college student and/or high school students could be seen walking by our house on their way to class.

At the time that this story took place, five of us ladies were living together and sharing a skinny driveway slash parking area.  I was the proud owner of a 1992 Hyundai Sonata that I would later total in a Wal-Mart parking lot, up in Yreka, California. Good times…

Ta-dah! Thanks, Google maps. It wasn’t the least bit creepy that I could type in my old address and get a street-view of my old residence. Nope…not at all.

I don’t remember if I needed to jump start my car, or if my roomie needed me to help her get her car started, but one morning, we decided to break out the jumper cables and start someone’s car.  I had done this task before, but there was usually a guy involved.

Now, don’t get all ‘down-with-men’ on me and think I was a lesser-lady because I deferred to the dudes when it came to jump starting my vehicle.  Just know that I was (and probably still am) kind of a car idiot and needed all the help I could get.  I once thought it was a great idea to remove my Hyundai’s sun roof glass while driving 60 MPH.  Yep.  See ya, sun roof!  I spent the rest of that summer (just outside of Seattle during an El Nino year) with saran wrap and a tarp wrapped tightly around the roof of my car. Super classy.


On that sunny spring morning in 19-whatever, I took over the task of hooking up the cables to each car.  I have a slight Miss Bossy-Pants tendency, that probably was rearing its ugly head that morning and made me feel pretty confident that I could manage such an important task as ‘battery cable placement’ girl.

Once the cars were hooked together in a tangle of red and black battery cables that I think I had actually received as a Christmas gift, one of us fired up the engine and triggered one of the funniest chain of events that I have yet to experience.

As we both stood back from the conjoined hoods, sparks began to fly from the battery in my car.

I had managed to mix up which cable goes onto which battery terminal.  See?  Not too bright with car-thingys.

I blame the early morning hour (probably at least 7:50 am) but I put my sleepy-thinking to good use and decided that what that small flare up needed was water – and quick!  I ran a few steps around the corner to the front yard to grab the hose.  I turned on the water, only to realize that the end of the hose was still attached to the oscillating sprinkler that we used to water our mini front-lawn.

This is just like the sprinkler we had back in the day.

No worries!  Water is still coming out of it, right?  JENNY TO THE RESCUE! I grabbed the sprinkler-end  and managed to get a rainbow of water cycled right into my face.  As I rounded the corner, the hose hit a snag and stopped my rescue-run in its tracks, and dramatically pulled me backwards a ‘la 3 Stooges-style.  It was not pretty.

I don’t not know what my other roommate was doing while I was wrangling the water sprinkler, but I do remember that roomie #3 happened to be awake that morning and was watching the whole debacle from our kitchen window that overlooked the driveway.

In my head, I can see her rolling her eyes and in her cartoon thought bubble I can read, “What idiots…”  She is actually much too nice to say that about us, but at that time, it would have probably been appropriate.

Roomie #3 was the daughter of our landlord, who has been on the haz-mat team of his firefighter squad.  I think.  Again, I’m usually pretty self-absorbed, so I could have misunderstood his job description.

Anyway, she knew that adding water to an electrical fire was the opposite thing that a sane person should be doing.  While I was wrestling with the garden hose and getting the occasional face-full of rainbow-sprinkler water, she calmly approached the cars with a box of baking soda, and quickly doused the flames.

If we had really been on a TV show, this would have been the part where the audience would applaud, we’d cut to a close up shot of roomie #3’s face and she would zing us all with a straight-faced line like, “Good morning, ladies.” Or “We’re out of baking soda, now.” But this is where my memory hits a few bumps and skips.  I have no idea how we got the cables unhooked from the cars, but I do remember the sirens and the approaching fire truck.

Apparently someone saw our comical chaos and called the fire department, but we waved them away and assured them that we had it under control.  For some reason I remember being in pajamas for this experience and since I shied away from 8 am classes as if they were the meeting place of the damned, it wouldn’t surprise me if that last tidbit of memory was accurate.

I remember hesitantly sitting behind the wheel of my car and trying to start it back up.  My cables were now toast (ha ha!) but thankfully, my trusty Hyundai-steed started right up and was fine, although it had a new scar to its bumper where the cables melted.

Lessons learned:

1)      Always keep baking soda handy.  Perhaps even in your glove compartment.

2)      Avoid tasks that involve large surges of electricity before 8 am.

3)      Surround yourself with smart ladies who can come to your rescue when you are bumbling around like a spaz.

About Jenny Z

I love to overuse italics, misplaced hyphens and internal dialogue when I write about my usual favorite topic, myself.

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