I went to visit my mom recently. I usually try to get over there once a month, when weekend radio duties (actually, a lack thereof) permit. Mom’s garbage disposal bit the dust over the Christmas holiday, and like a trouper she’s been working without it ever since.
Oh, she could have called a plumber and had one a month ago, but her idiot son (her youngest idiot son, specifically) said, “No problem, I can install a new one for you.” So, she patiently waited until this well-meaning but overly-optimistic fool showed up again a month later to get it put in.
We found an acceptable replacement at a home improvement store, and took it home. Mom wisely offered to pay no attention as the installation proceeded, though every now and again there’d be a big clunk or other such noise and she’d inquire from down the hall if everything was all right. Things were going along just fine as the removal of the old one proceeded.
One thing I’ve learned as I’ve done various home improvement projects is that nothing ever goes the way you think it will. I generally am at peace with this idea these days, far more so than I would have been 15 years ago. It’s just the way things are. So I can’t say I was surprised when I opened up the switch box that controls the disposal (along with the neighboring dishwasher—don’t ask me why a dishwasher needs a switch) and found not the usual three or four colors of wire, but rather, seven.
Yes, we had a lovely rainbow of wires in there, specifically, red, black, orange, yellow, white, grey, and purple. You know what that says to me? That says, “Fun!” It’s like a little puzzle!
It was pretty easy to figure out that the yellow and orange were just there trying to be helpful in indicating the load lines to the disposal and the dishwasher (though why they didn’t just continue the black and red that came from the breaker box I don’t really get, but never mind.) The white was what the white always is, neutral. Good. So we’ve figured out five of the seven. Here’s my big problem though, at this point: Where the heck is the ground wire? Usually swaddled in green or just bare copper, the ground wire is what is going to keep me (or more likely, Mom) from dying when we are grinding the remnants of some wonderful meal she’s prepared. We kind of need that. Seven wires in the box, and not-a-one seems to be the ground; a head-scratcher, to be sure.
The purple and grey wires were really my only candidates, but they were bad candidates—the Walter Mondale and Alf Landon of the wiring world. They were really nothing more than a head-fake, since they came in one hole of the switch box and went right back out again without apparently being connected to anything. I’m curious as to where they go and what they do, but not so curious as to pursue it.
This is the point at which I had to give up. As much as I would like to have completed the project, I couldn’t have slept at night for wondering if mom had been electrocuted by her disposal due to improper grounding. She called a handyman, who dropped by a couple of days later. I won’t bore you with the solution, but he had it all hooked up lickety-split.
Fortunately, my abject failure didn’t put a damper on our weekend, and we had a nice chili supper and played an epic game of Canasta, finishing a 10,000 point game separated by a mere ten points. I can’t even remember in the end who won, just that it was as evenly matched a game as I’ve ever participated in. Fun stuff, and no one got electrocuted. And isn’t that the definition of a successful weekend?