My grandfather taught me the rudiments of electricity when I was about 13 or so. Grandpa had retired from the Massachusetts Transit Authority, where he had been responsible for keeping the electricity running to the streetcars. (In New Orleans and many movies, they are known as trolley cars.)
I do not recall what birthed that discussion nearly three-quarters of a century ago, but his explanation involved water: Amps were the water, volts were the pressure pushing the amps through the wire, which is the hose, and ohms were the measurement of resistance caused by too-small hoses/wires and switches/valves and other impediments to the smooth flow of the water, er, amps.
Later, I learned about red, black, white and green wires — and which ones normally could kick a young fellow on his butt, were he not paying attention. There was the time when my dad gave me the drill with a wire brush attached to clean rust from some places he wanted to paint on the Jeep.
Me being young and the season being summer, I was wearing bare feet, and the jeep was on the concrete basement floor and the drill featured an all-steel case.
And there was, I later discovered, a wire touching the inside of the drill case, and when I pulled the trigger …
There I was, in a half squat, jumping around on the floor like a human vibrator, unable to let go of the drill, hollering mostly in fright at having no idea what was going on but I sure wanted it to let me go and Dad hearing me and yelling some of those words that fathers, at least in those days, often used when situations demanded emphasis in ways only male children normally were permitted to hear, demanding that I let go, which I could not, and finally he pulled the plug.
I survived unscathed, though had Dad not pulled that plug and I’d been held by that drill much longer, I.. might have indeed been scathed, perhaps permanently. And later, I took Grampa’s lesson to find and fix the problem.
Sometimes I wonder how our world became so overpopulated. I am a firm believer that life is not without risk, safety always is a good idea, and by-and-large we are mostly lucky we not yet exceeded the carrying capacity of of Spaceship Earth.
I have been fortunate in my time to have had people – Dad, friends, co-workers – to pull me out of trouble before it became non-pull-outable. So far, I have always been granted the opportunity to hear someone say, “I bet that will feel better when it stops hurting” when I experienced the results of pushing forward into danger when I knew the wiser choice would have been to go another way.
I think about such things sometimes when I am wandering along a forest path or wading in a stream – about how, for a variety of reasons, we keep pushing forward into danger, in spite of warnings to the contrary. On the other hand, some warnings carry more weight. A sign declaring “Bridge Freezes Before Roadway” does not carry quite the life-threatening import as one announcing, “Slow Down – Road Ends Ahead.”
There have been many signs in recent times that our spaceship is careening toward a chasm over which no bridge has been built. It would be good, methinks, to heed the warnings of experts like my grandfather who knew the danger that came with power. They may not know all the specific situations we will encounter, but they can, if we let them, point out the signs proclaiming, “Slow Down – Road Ends Ahead.”