Kathy Petersen’s Blog

An Enlightening Saga

Posted in Uncategorized by Kathy on December 8, 2008

We had decided we’d put our Christmas tree up this weekend, so on Friday, I got out the lights and ornaments in preparation for it. Knowing how the lights tend to stop working in storage, I went through each strand replacing lights that were no longer working with bulbs that still worked.

First up were the lights we have on our stairs, which have “bell” or “trumpet” shaped shades on them — quite pretty. I plugged them in and they were working, and then within a minute, they just stopped working. Being the brilliant person that I am, and knowing that these lights were not the kind that if one bulb goes out the whole strand stops working, I still fiddled with each bulb, trying to figure out why they just *pop* went out like that. And I plugged and unplugged the cords… I guess just because. So I guessed there must be some sort of fuse in the lights that blew. There was. I opened the place in the plug and saw two fuses, one of which was obviously blown (it was dark and smoky inside). Since I didn’t have a replacement fuse, I took out the blown one for comparison purposes, put the other one back inside, and finished arranging the lights on the banister. The kids kept asking me to turn on the lights, and I told them that I couldn’t. (Then, when my husband came home, he plugged in the lights. And they worked. I wondered how they worked when one of the fuses was completely out.)

Next, I started on the jumble of lights for the tree. I tried each strand, changed bulbs as necessary, and then bundled each strand by itself, securing it with rubber bands. One strand blew the fuse, so I took that one out as well, and found it to be  different size fuse from the other one. I also had a few other strands (emptied of lights) that also apparently had succumbed to blown fuses. Consequently, when my husband came home, I went out to Walmart to find fuses. I found the right size, physically speaking, of one of the types of fuses, but not of the other; and it was the wrong amperage. Checking the internet, I found it was possible to use a lower-amperage fuse as a replacement, but that it was dangerous to use a higher-amperage one. Argh.

Saturday morning, my husband and I took the kids and got our tree, put it up, and I started stringing the lights. I thought I would have enough of the lights — having 7 strands — for the whole tree, but when I got to the last strand, I thought it looked like there was a little more tree left than lights, so decided to go as far as I could with that, and see if it was sufficient.

Then I had a shocking experience.

That last strand of lights — which I had deliberately made last, because it looked like it was older, and I was more concerned about that one than the others as a fire hazard, and rather hoped not to need that strand of lights at all — had a part of the wire stripped bare between two of the lights. The “shock” may not actually have occurred — the tree we got was cedar and prickly, and what I felt could as easily have been the needles scraping my skin, it was so mild. But I felt the unevenness of what should have been the smooth wire covering just the same, and immediately unplugged those lights and unstrung that strand.

Despairing of being able to find fuses (even if an old auto-parts store may have carried them, for example, they most likely would have been closed then, it being after noon on Saturday), I decided to take the unusable fuses back to Walmart and just get a couple of boxes of lights. (My husband likes the C7 kind — the old-fashioned multi-colored big lights — not the biggest [C9] kind, but the next-biggest. We both had those growing up. Although I “converted” to liking the little white lights better, I certainly don’t mind the homey look of the C7’s.)

While waiting to check out, I noticed on the box that it said it came with an extra fuse in the plug… and a light bulb went off in my head. That was why the lights on the stairs worked when my husband plugged them in! I had merely taken out the blown fuse and put in the replacement fuse — duh! I almost put back the second box of lights, because I only needed two strands, and if I bought one box with an extra fuse, all I would have to do would be to take out the second fuse and put it in one of the strands I already had, and, voilà, I would have two strands for the price of one. But, since I was already in line, I decided just to keep the lights I had, even though I felt like I was wasting half of my money not “needing” the second strand. I’m glad I kept them.

When I got home, I put the extra fuse in the set of lights that had blown a fuse the day before, and started putting them on the tree. I got about halfway done when that fuse blew, so I figured there was something wrong with the strand itself, to blow a brand-new fuse. Argh. So, I took those down, had my husband take out all the lights while I continued to string the tree with the new lights, and then we threw that empty strand away. Then, I got out the other extra fuse, and discovered that all of the other empty strands I had used a bigger size fuse — physically, as well as amperage — and that my replacement fuses wouldn’t power them. So I ended up needing the second strand of lights I had just bought, after all.

And the tree looks lovely!

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