December 14, 2020
By Arthur H. Gunther III
Gotta tell you a very human story.
The other day, in the middle of this awful virus time, I got a call from a friend who needed help replacing an electrical switch, something not beyond me.
“OK, I replied, what’s wrong?” The fellow answered, “It’s a three-way switch, and I cannot figure out how to wire it.” “Be right over” was my answer as I suited up with mask and hand cleaner, gathered tools and cast off.
When I got to the man’s house, he had already pulled out wires from a location upstairs, never a good thing because you invite a mystery: what wire goes where?
We checked that the power was still off, I looked at his replacement switch and found the right wires. Flipped on the circuit breaker but no overhead vestibule light. I asked the friend why he thought the original switch was broken, and he said that it seemed wobbly and that the light was out.
Not to make this story complicated, but I told him that 3-way switches, despite the name, control a light from two locations, and that he might have guessed wrong — that the other switch was the malfunctioning one, and besides, you should replace both devices at the same time.
So, I got another switch and put it in. Still no illumination. Ah, that is when the lightbulb went off in my head. “Did you check the bulb to see if it was OK,” I asked? One new energy-efficient 75-watt equivalent later, let there be light reigned.
There were two dense people here — myself and my friend, both of whom did not look for the obvious. It was like changing the fuel pump in your car because you ran out of gas.
Back in the day, in my hometown village of Spring Valley, N.Y., there was an astute, community-friendly, well-known radio/TV expert repairman who often received calls that someone’s radio or TV was completely dead.
Taking one such call as he leaned on his own Philco radio set in the living room, one leg crossed over the other, John Romaine would calmly tell the anxious caller, who did not want to miss a favorite program, that he would be right over.
More than once, he found that the power cord had been pulled out when someone plugged a vacuum cleaner in, etc.
The fellow never charged for his visit.
The writer is a retired newspaperman.