A shocking tale -- 05/01/02

Monday was my birthday...

Tuesday was why I sometimes feel very old...

There is an old exercise bike machine in the basement, an non-functioning machine. Sean, my almost-17-year-old, decided that as a birthday present for me he would repair it.

He was somewhat successful in his work. Everything now works except the ability to vary the pedaling effort. Apparently he blew out a resistor on the circuit board. but he believes that he can obtain a suitable replacement at Radio Shack. In the meanwhile, after his sister left for work and Nancy and I had gone to sleep, he continued to work in the basement. Swilling down can after can of Mountain Dew, he pulled an all-nighter taking things apart and putting them back together.

I have no desire to play with gasoline engines nor to store cans of gasoline (or petrol for you Brits in the audience) in my garage, but there is too much lawn for the old push reel-type mower we used when we lived in upstate New York. (Our front yard alone here is as big as our entire property had been there -- front yard, house, driveway, garage, and backyard combined.) So after my first attempt at using our old push mower here, I bought an electric lawn mower. It worked fairly well for two or three years, until Nancy hit it while putting her car into the garage. One of the mower's wheels broke off and it is not easy mowing a lawn with a three-wheeled lawnmower. We live in an age where things are not build to be repaired... and the nearest repair facility for this brand of mower was in Massachusetts. So I bought another electric mower.

Okay, now back to the main thread of this story... Sean decided to repair the broken lawnmower... and he succeeded. The height is no longer adjustable, but it does now have four otherwise functioning wheels. After that success, as dawn lightened the eastern sky, he decided to take apart the other electric lawn mower.

I was eating breakfast when he came up from the basement, shaking his right hand and wrist and saying "Boy, did I just get a shock!" He had (for reasons knowable only to a teenaged male with too little sleep and too much caffeinated soft drink) plugged in the disassembled lawnmower and touched the wrong thing.

Nancy and I checked his hand -- no burn -- and delivered a lecture about electrical safety.

After breakfast, Nancy dropped Sean off at the high school and went to work. I had a huge amount of technical reading to do for work and decided that I would be more comfortable doing some of this reading in my den rather than at work, so I poured myself another cup of coffee and read for a while. I finally got to my office around ten a.m. where I found the message-waiting light on my phone was blinking. Multiple messages from Nancy: she had received a call from the high school nurse's office, Sean had been unable to write in class because his hand was shaking too much, Nancy had phoned our doctor's office and they had said he should be brought in, could I please make that happen -- these messages all being about an hour old. So I phone school nurse, phoned doctor's office, phoned Nancy -- and then retraced my twenty mile commute.

When I got to the high school, the nurse's office couldn't find Sean. He was not in his assigned class -- the teacher had sent him to the nurse's office about ten minutes earlier to get a new ice pack for his hand but he hadn't shown up there (he had no idea I was coming to pick him up) -- which led to a quick flurry of searching for him various places -- and about ten or fifteen minutes after I got there he finally showed up at the nurse's office -- on the way he'd passed a room with a teacher he'd liked when he'd been in his computer tech class last year, the door was open, he stopped to say hi and had ended up entertaining the class with his story about how he'd electrocuted himself before breakfast. (By this point he'd perfected the tale, it was well-polished, with a number of good laugh lines.) His history teacher who had sent him to the nurse's office, however, was not amused and hit him with after school detention for today as a penalty for not going directly to the nurse's office.

Sean saw no reason why he should see a doctor but since I was there to kidnap him and force him to go, he just had to tell his Algebra teacher that he would not be in class and he also had to tell his French teacher he might not be able to take a make-up quiz after school. It seems like such a simple task, pick up a kid from school and take him to a doctor's office... Classes were changing as we stopped to see these two teachers and students who had the earliest lunch period assignment were wandering about. Have you ever watched a popular politician working the crowd at some event, perhaps at a neighborhood street festival? That was Sean's progress through the halls, a non-stop series of high-fives, shouts, laughs, quick explanation that he was being kidnapped because he'd electrocuted himself (with a promise of details later)... I thought I'd never get him out of the building. He was definitely in a manic mood and I was beginning to worry about it -- he can be a very sociable kid and he is very popular, but this was getting to be ridiculous -- but once in the car he admitted that he had put five cans of Mountain Dew in his backpack before leaving home that morning and he had consumed all five cans. (Have you ever watched the Beavis and Butthead cartoon show? Especially the episode where they are in the coffee shop and one of them -- I can never remember which one is which -- consumes multiple pots of espresso coffee? That was Sean, totally wired.)

At the doctor's office he had the receptionist laughing and laughing with his by now well-rehearsed story... and then he was entertaining everyone in the waiting room (and actually hitting on a twenty year old college girl, to the point where he was annoyed when his name was called to see the doctor). He continued his comedy monologue in the examining room, spewing forth quips and puns and wisecracks -- until he heard EKG mentioned. He suddenly got a serious look "Uh, that's like to check your heart, right?" When told that he had a 104 pulse rate and they wanted to be sure that the electric current hadn't damaged his heart, he stayed serious for a few minutes.... I guess there are some things that can scare even macho teenage males.

The verdict: he was fine except for a combination of fatigue with an over-consumption of Mountain Dew, resulting in way too much caffeine and too much sugar, but no electrical damage. (He had been drinking about one an hour all night long.) Doctor's orders: no more caffeine, no more Mountain Dew (except she would allow him one can in case of a caffeine-withdrawal headache.) Sean insisted that he had to go back to school for the last two classes of the day... Hmmm, I wonder if that was due to burst of academic zeal or a desire to show off the photocopy of his EKG he'd talked the doctor into giving him.

Why do parents get gray hair?

And I suppose you've heard the saying "Insanity is hereditary; you get it from your kids."

And then last night was the annual town financial meeting. I've talked about these in the past. About three and a half hours of debate before the vote... but the school budget was passed.

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