Columnists, Tyler Mahan, V4I5

Flip the Switch

Many years ago, more than 200 in fact, Benjamin Franklin flew his kite into a lightning storm to find out more about electricity. It was a rather shocking experience. He wasn’t the first to discover electricity. Nor did he do anything overly useful that I know of with it. Thomas Edison developed an incandescent light that ran off electricity and from there the United States pretty much became hooked on electric power.

We are no exception at Better Barns. Everything we do depends on the power company keeping us supplied with electricity. Occasionally, storms or some other disturbance will interrupt the flow, and we will have to find something profitable to do until power is restored.

One such day found us working away in the shop on a small office building that had to be wired and insulated. It was a warm summer day. Our local electric cooperative needed to work on something nearby and cut off the power.

There we were—five guys with very little to do for the next couple of hours. Our crew leader and I talked about it and decided that we would clean the globes for the large lights that we use in our shop. They had never been properly cleaned, and we thought it would be a good time to do it.

We put a pallet on the forks of our lift to make a nice little platform. Then, I stepped on and rode up to reach the lights while my crew leader drove. I took the first globe off, sprayed the cleaner on it, and wiped it down very well. It took a few minutes to finish the first one. We moved on to the second one, and I repeated my procedure from round one.

The crew leader and I moved on to the next light. The other three guys were running wire and stuff in the project building. The next couple of lights were above the shed the others were working on. I rode the forklift up and walked the roof of the building to clean the next light. After I finished, I got a funny (to me) idea.

Some of you may have read the story “For Want of an Air Conditioner” that ran a while back in this magazine (June/July 2017). In it, I tell of my experiences with one of our young men in the shop named Trey. If you haven’t read the story, I can tell you that Trey was a teenage boy who was rather lacking in common sense and wisdom. Decent kid, but not the brightest bulb in the box. He was working with us that day.

I called out to him from the roof, “Trey, can you go turn on the lights, so we can see how much better these globes look?”

I expected him to trot over to the light switch and then we’d all have a good laugh. But, he surprised me! He looked up and kinda chuckled with a knowing look. He didn’t fall for it!

We went on cleaning for a couple more lights. About 15-20 minutes had passed since I had asked Trey to turn on the lights. I finished up the next-to-last light and decided to try my trick again. This time, I changed targets. We’ll call him John for this story.

I yelled down the shop to John, “John, can you go turn on the lights, so we can see how much better these look?”

John headed over to the light switch in the corner. I could barely suppress a grin as he got there and turned to look at me.

“They are already on,” he replied.

“Try turning them off, then back on,” I answered.

He did. Nothing happened. By this time, the whole crew was watching the action with straight faces.

Another guy said, “Try again!”

He did. Nothing happened. He looked up at the lights with wonder. Then, he looked back to me for instruction.

“Try again,” I say.

He did. Nothing happened.

“John, it’s almost like the electricity is off or something,” I say, as we all begin to laugh. The sheepish grin on his face added to the humor of the moment.

John had a great attitude about it, and we all enjoyed a laugh at his expense that day. Just another day in the life of a shed builder.


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