We have a small granite-topped cupboard in the no-man’s land beyond our kitchen on which we keep two coffeemakers. The first of these is a carafe coffeemaker of regular dimensions and the second is a silver monstrosity that makes espresso. We also have a coffee grinder, and this appliance is also kept on the small granite-topped cupboard. If you are paying very close attention, you will note that this makes for three caffeine-related electrical appliances, each with its own plug. There is a standard double-outlet behind the cupboard, which does not allow for easy access to unplug and then replug whichever of the two machines one might want to be running at any particular moment.
Mark solved this problem by mounting a power strip along the side of the cupboard and plugging it in behind the cupboard.
Not for nothing is the man an electrical engineer.
This set-up worked for a very long time . . . right up until it did not.
Here’s robe-clad me, pouring beans into the grinder and pushing the button and then not hearing the sound of coffee beans being ground, “Damn it. Somebody get me a hammer . . . I am going to have to hand-smash some coffee beans!” No one answers me, and I am not inclined to get myself a hammer, and so I stand on tiptoe to peer into the espresso machine. Yes! There are beans in the reservoir thingy that feeds the espresso machine’s grinder; I will just have espresso. I press the button to make myself espresso and nothing happens. Seriously? What are the chances of the grinder and the espresso machine both breaking on the same morning? So annoying. Maybe the neighbors have coffee . . . what time is it, anyway? I lean to read the little red digital numbers on the front of the carafe coffeemaker, but there is just a small empty gray rectangle where those numbers should be. I turn slowly to take in the fact that the lights in the kitchen are working as realization dawns . . . something is up with the electrical supply to this tiny caffeinated corner of the world.
I pull the cupboard away from the wall and check that the power strip is plugged in. It is. I unplug it and try to work the coffee grinder using either of the outlet’s two sockets directly. No go. I walk the grinder to the other side of the kitchen and plug it in. It works. I check lights and outlets around the room; it seems to be just this single outlet that is impacted. Fine . . . electrical engineer husband can fix that for me when he gets home. In the meantime, I haul the carafe coffeemaker over next to the sink and make myself some coffee.
When Mark gets home, I explain all about the outlet that does not work, and he eyes me doubtfully, “You sure it’s not just the power strip that’s broken?”
I explain again.
His voice is filled with skepticism, “Not likely a single outlet would go bad just like that. Did you check the fuse-box? Maybe you blew a fuse.”
I explain that I did indeed check the fuse-box, and that the outage does indeed seem to be limited to this one outlet.
He sighs in a way that communicates his belief that I have misunderstood the basic workings of electricity, “And you tried plugging things directly into the sockets?”
I stare at him, “Yes, babe. But even when I shoved a carrot into the wall, nothing electrical happened.”
He stares back at me, “Fine. I will take a look at it.”
I go about my business for a few minutes, and when I return, I find Mark sipping from a tiny cup of espresso. I prepare to eat crow, “Wait . . . you fixed it already?”
He toasts me, raising the tiny white cup in the air, “Yup.”
“Geez, I feel stupid,” I turn to walk over to the espresso machine to make myself a cup, but the cupboard on which the silver espresso monster usually sits is completely bare.
I turn back to Mark and he gestures to the counter next to the sink, “That outlet over there is broken. I moved the espresso machine next to where you put the coffeemaker. That thing’s heavy!” He points, “I moved the coffee grinder too.”
“Seriously? How is that fixed?”
He lifts his tiny cup again, “Look! I have coffee!”
I walk to where most of one side of the kitchen’s counter space is now taken up by coffee equipment, rest my hand atop the silver espresso machine, “OK, but this is a short-term solution, right? You’re going to fix this, right?”
“Yeah, I’ll fix it this weekend.”
Three weeks later . . . here’s Mark, hauling the coffeemaker, the coffee grinder, and the monster espresso machine back to their rightful places on the small granite-covered cupboard. I am appropriately grateful, “Yay! It took longer than you said, but thank you! That’s so awesome that you fixed it!”
He plugs the three machines into the power strip and pushes buttons to set the clock on the front of the coffeemaker, “Yeah, I didn’t actually fix anything; it just started working again. I was going to fix it, but it’s not broken anymore.”
“OK, then I am slightly less impressed. It fixed itself?”
“Shouldn’t we maybe have someone come out and take a look at it before the house burns down or something? Seems like electricity with a mind of its own is a bad idea.”
“Nah . . . they’re not going to be able to diagnose a problem that’s not here.”
“So it’s fixed?”
I am less than enthusiastic, “Great.”
Three weeks later . . . here’s Mark hauling the coffeemaker and the coffee grinder and the monster espresso machine back into the kitchen, “Stupid outlet.”
“What, it’s broken again?
“We should probably call the landlord, don’t you think?”
“No, I’ll take care of it.”
“I said I would take care of it.”
“Alright, because having all this counter space taken up with coffee machines is really inconvenient.”
“I said I would take care of it. Look, I am making a note on my phone . . . I will fix it.”
Six weeks later . . . I walk into the kitchen, and Mark is tapping triumphantly on his iPhone. He gestures to the small granite-topped cupboard, “Feels good to finally be able to scratch that off my list.”
I look over at the cupboard, atop which rest the coffeemaker, the grinder, and the espresso machine, “Yay! You fixed it! Thank you so much! It’s been such a pain in the ass to have that espresso machine hulking over here next to the sink!”
He taps a bit more, “Let me just find it on my to-do list, and . . . DONE.”
I walk back into the kitchen, “The kitchen is huge with the counter freed up. Yay!”
Mark smiles, “You are very welcome, ma’am. Let me know if it acts up again.”
“Wait . . . why would it act up again?”
He adopts a professional tone, “I’m just making a note here . . . No trouble found.”
“Wait . . . what do you mean . . . No trouble found? You mean it just started working on its own again?”
He taps some more, “I’m going to have to charge you for the visit, ma’am. Unfortunately, what you have here is what we refer to as an intermittent problem. Difficult for me to diagnose and address the issue unless the issue presents during the time of inspection.”
“So you didn’t fix anything.”
“I’m going to go ahead and close the ticket, ma’am . . . please feel free to give me a call should this issue arise again in the future.”
“You are so annoying.”
“Feel free to make note of your annoyance at the bottom of the bill, ma’am.”
“So what . . . I’m just supposed to wait until the outlet stops working again?”
“Yes, and then call an electrical engineer.”
“But you are an electrical engineer.”
“Well, then it will be a local call.”
“You are making my head hurt. I need coffee.”
Mark walks to the small granite-topped cupboard and reaches to press a button on the espresso maker, “Fingers crossed!”