Our home was a little row house in southwest Philadelphia (when it was safe to live there, probably 1974). The house was built in the late 20's or early 30's and had real old electrical service. Two prong outlets with no ground. The paint was old and peeling, the floor boards creaked, and it seemed like every day my father was working on some part of the house to make it better. At the time I seemed oblivious to all of this. Being three years old my mind was a total sponge trying to soak up as many new and exciting things as I could. EVERYTHING was bright and new, and nothing was off limits.
To get back to my sister's room. I had been playing in there. My sister's listened to a lot of music and hung out in there room a lot and I used to feel left out if I was not in there with them. I am not sure if the size was ACTUALLY bigger than mine and my brothers room, but is certainly felt that way and I felt more comfortale in there as a result. So during the days when my sister's and brother were at school I would roam around looking for things to enlighten my small mind. I was always magnetically drawn to my sister's room, hoping that in some way my presence there would magically make them appear, turn on some music and start hanging out in there. I guess that was my way of expressing that I missed them.
Standing alone in a quite room with nothing happening almost made me feel as if I was frozen in time. Nothing moved, not a sound was heard, and I almost felt a bit guilty breathing since it would upset this delicate balance of the environment. I turned to leave the room and find something else to do and my foot kicked a small Bobby Pin. Seeing as how this was metal and it traveled across a wooden floor it made a slight sound. However in a quiet room with my senses set on maximum gain to scan out anything that my young mind could soak up, the sound was loud and thundering. My attention immediately focused on it.
I picked it up and started to bend it around. I think I even stuck it on my finger. It squeezed it tight and left a small imprint when I removed it. When I relaxed my attention off of the Bobby pin I noticed that I was standing next to a wall.
Being that young and not having a fully developed mind is a strange thing. Your perceptions are different, and you methods for getting tasks done are different as well. Furthermore because everything is so bright and new, being able to rely on a lengthy attention span is never something you can consider. You simply just move onto the next amazing thing and easily forget what you are doing.
So here I was standing next to a wall, after finding this Bobby pin on the floor, which I was still holding, and I decided that I had had enough and wanted to leave the room, but I had focused so much on the Bobby pin that I did not realize I had walked across the room and ended up next to a wall, so I needed to find the door so I could leave. I looked up from my hands and at the wall in front of me and figured that if I ran my eyes along the wall I would eventually find where the door was. Pretty slick thinking for a kid whose brain has not fully developed.
I started running my eyes along the wall scanning for the door and noticed a disturbance in the wall. There was a little box with two dark circles on it. I immediately forgot that I was looking for the door and fixated on this. I walked over to the box and sat down in front of it. It was at eye level for a three year old.
I touched the front of the box and marveled over it. It was cold to the touch, the dark circles when touched were not as cold and had two slits in them. Almost like you were supposed to insert something into them. I knew this because I remembered watching on TV a bunch of ladies sitting in front of walls pulling things out of a desk and shoving them into dark circles with slits on them. This had to be one of those dark circles I had seen on TV. After they shoved something into the slit they would start talking to someone. Maybe I could talk to my sisters using these dark circles with slits in them?
It was really quiet in the room and wanted someone to talk to. So decided I needed to place an offering into the slit on the dark circle on the box in front of me. But what could I use?
As I was mulling over this question I noticed that I was rubbing the Bobby pin
"OF COURSE!, I'll use THIS!"
In that eureka moment I felt like a giant. It was like all the planets aligned, the clouds parted, and God himself had delivered the answer to me personally. I could almost feel my mind getting stronger, I KNEW I was more confident. There was now purpose, there was finally a reason for the seemingly unrelated chain of events that led up to that point. I then licked my lips with a swipe of my tongue across my top lip and inserted the Bobby pin into one of the slits.
So in reality this is a story about a three year old sticking a piece of metal into an electrical socket with no ground. The "cold outside box" was really the metal cover of the electrical outlet that had no ground and was simply shorted to the neutral return. Aside from the horrors of a three year old being electrocuted, my first hand experience with this was rather strange.
"Something is happening", I quickly thought to myself. My hand felt like it was moving back and forth very quickly but I could not observe it moving at all. "Was someone trying to talk to me through the dark circle with slits in it? Did this happen to the ladies I saw on TV?"
Before I could ask myself anymore questions, my hand and then my arm started to hurt and feel very hot. This was not what I expected, I immediately got frightened, and screamed rather loudly. In one motion I let go of the Bobby pin in what seemed like an explosion of my hand. I then started shouting and crying uncontrollably.
Help was not far away and my Mother soon showed up confused and alarmed. I think the only words that came out of my mouth between the sobs were "It bit me!" At that point she noticed the Bobby pin in the socket and what was really going on.
She hugged me very close and told me it would be alright. I started to feel better. When my crying subsided a bit she grabbed my cheeks and moved my face so I looked her straight in the eyes and she said, "Your not supposed to play with electricity" softly to me.
In retrospect I think back to that time and would like to apologize to my Mother, because I don't think I could ever take those words to heart. Without ever having a say in the matter I was now hooked on electricity, and that type of addiction has lead me to be the person I am today.