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The little - and big - reset button

We had an electrical emergency at our house last week that threatened our survival. We (yes, I was actually helping) were defrosting our old freezer in the garage. It had been unplugged during the thawing part of the process but it was plugged in for the finishing touches. I was washing the interior when my wet sponge touched the little light bulb inside and it popped with a clunk. I thought I had just burned out a bulb.

When I finished washing, I got a new bulb that I had tested and knew it worked. But when I screwed it in, it didn't work. Then when I turned the dial to re-start the freezing process, the old freezer (it must be over 30 years old -- we bought it secondhand for a song about 18 years ago) didn't hum -- it hums when it's working.

We checked the circuit breaker box. The switch for the garage was still engaged. The lights in the ceiling were still on. When we checked the garage outlets -- no juice in any of them. How could the breaker be on, the ceiling lights on and the wall outlets out? Meanwhile, our freezer contents were thawing.

Our neighbor Bob, the genius, was called in as a consultant. He got in there with his flashlight and poked around, but he didn't have a clue. He was more interested in the contents of the freezer, now spread out on the garage floor. "How come you guys have so much bread in here -- why isn't this freezer filled with steak?" I was sorry we ever let him in, but Eartha thinks everybody in our neighborhood is smarter than her husband. What she doesn't understand is that the smart side of town is about a mile away.

But we had to get our bread frozen again or it was toast. Emergencies are not uncommon to us, so we have an abundance of long electrical cords. We ran a cord from our bathroom out to our garage, got the old freezer re-humming and reloaded the bread (it really is special stuff that we picked up at an unusual place on a trip to the cities a few weeks ago -- but Bob wouldn't care about an explanation that made sense to ordinary folks) and the emergency was over -- but the problem wasn't solved with a makeshift solution any more than the recent makeshift solution in Washington has solved our nation's budget and deficit problems.

Meanwhile, Bob was back on his side of the wall resting his mind watching "Wheel of Fortune" -- he thinks it's simply amazing how Vanna White can flip those letters while wearing tight dresses.

We had wasted two hours not solving our problem except with a Band Aid.

If you folks on the smart side of town read this column (why would you?) you knew the answer before you got to the paragraph about Bob the genius. One of those garage wall outlets has a strange little strip, about one inch wide, between the plug-in slots that has two colored buttons, one red and one black. With a magnifying glass -- the letters are printed in the same color as the background -- you can read "Follow Directions" on one side and "Test Monthly" on the other. But there are no directions. Then on the little buttons in even tinier print, it says "Reset" on the red button and "Test" on the black one. Eureka! I hit the reset button and all the juice was flowing again.

There should always be a moral of the story. This one has four if you can hang on for another 30 seconds. First, live on the smart side of town if you possibly can; second, never ask advice from a genius who watches "Wheel of Fortune"; third, if you can't figure something out, find an 11 year-old kid who will show you what was right under your nose; and fourth, wouldn't it be wonderful if we could install a giant reset button in Washington D.C.?