My parents once bought an electric blanket. Had it for years. Used it nightly. It had separate controls enabling both sleepers to manage their own comfort level. Mom and dad loved it. After the first night anyway.
My dad always seemed to get into trouble when electricity came into play. Oh, he never burned down the house or anything like that. He was a capable albeit amateur electrician—a skill he developed while with the US Army during World War II. At the end of the fighting, he was put in charge of rebuilding bridges and railroads in the country of Austria.
When his commanding officer gave him that task, my dad respectfully suggested that he had the wrong man for the job; he needed was an engineer. “Lieutenant,” said the officer, “the last thing I need is an engineer. An engineer will give me all the reasons why what I want done can’t be done. You, on the other hand, will simply get it done.”
Army logic all the way. And my dad got it done. But that’s not all my dad got done.
He was top-of-the-line practical joker. In his little trailer that served as his office, he hooked up an electric chair.
Perhaps I should explain that.
He was not electrocuting people. He was simply shocking people. He had rigged a wooden chair with electric current so that when someone was seated in that chair, my dad could—if he wished—throw a switch which would send just enough current to make the unsuspecting person jump from the seat, but not enough to hurt them.
There was a girl—9 or 10 at the time—from the nearby village of Seekirchen, who hung around the trailer and was kind of “adopted” by my dad. She would go on to become a longtime family friend, living out the reset of her life in Seekirchen, before dying a couple of decades ago.
Of course, the young girl quickly discovered the secret of the shocking chair. My dad gave her a shock once. In the process, she learned how to make it work. One day, a pregnant woman in need of minor medical attention showed up. My dad seated her in the chair. The young girl was seated on a nearby couch. My dad went to get the medic.
He and the medic arrived just as the girl was ready to throw the switch … and maybe produce a baby on the spot. My dad intervened to avert disaster.
So, the cold winter night my dad and mom first used their electric blanket, they snuggled under it for a comfortable night’s sleep. It never happened. My dad, who was cold, kept turning his control “up,” but got even colder. My mom, who was hot, kept turning her control “down,” but got even hotter. Not until the next morning did they realize that each had the other’s control.
Like I said, electricity and my dad were a bad mix.
Pat Heston is co-host of Let's Talk on Tuesday and Thursday on WBGZ 107.1FM/1570AM. He's also the author of the book "Journey Into Newness: The Soul-Making Power of a Wilderness," and a retired pastor.