Tim Dowling: the power is off, but my wife is refusing to help

The middle one comes out to my office to inform me that he’s sent me an email.

“Oh, OK,” I say, hitting the space bar on my dormant computer. “I didn’t see.”

“I sent it, like, an hour ago,” he says. We chat for a moment, while I keep hitting the space bar.

“This computer is really slow,” I say. “I’ll get back to you.”

After he leaves, I continue tapping the space bar, but the screen stays dark. A minute goes by before something occurs to me, and I switch on my desk light. Nothing happens.

I go into the house, stand on a chair and peer into the fuse box, where all the little levers are pointing upwards, bar one. I push that one up, and after a few seconds it snaps back down insistently. I lean into the sitting room where my wife is working.

“Something’s going on with the fuse box,” I say.

“OK,” she says, typing.

“It only pertains to the kitchen sockets, top-floor sockets and my office,” I say. “But I don’t know why.”

“I’m a bit busy, actually,” she says.

“I am also busy,” I say.

After unplugging the toaster and the kettle, I return to the fuse box, but the little lever snaps back just as insistently. I turn off the isolation switches for the dishwasher and the extractor fan. The oven, I discover, is still working. The oven is its own thing.

“I have no idea what’s tripping it,” I say to my wife. “I tried everything.”

“I can’t really deal with it right now,” she says, typing.

“It’s sort of urgent,” I say.

“What is it you want me to do?” she says, typing.

“We need to call Kitch,” I say, meaning the electrician.

“So call him,” she says.

“I don’t have his number,” I say. “You do.”

“I’m right in the middle of something,” she says, still typing.

“The fridge is off and I don’t have any internet!” I shout. My wife stops typing and looks at me.

“My internet is fine,” she says.

As I leave the room, I decide to slam the door very hard. It’s been at least a year, possibly two, since I’ve slammed a door in anger, and it feels interesting. I think about maybe breaking some plates as well, but in the end I just sit in my office with my arms folded. This would be better, I think, if I had some internet.

After an hour, I am driven back to the kitchen by the fear that ice-cream is melting, and commence a rescue project. This is more difficult than it sounds: the fridge sits in a raised recess, behind false wooden doors that are attached to its real doors by means of four sliding mechanisms. I involve all three of my sons in the effort, barking orders as if I were launching a lifeboat in a night-time storm. We empty the fridge, unscrew all the brackets, lift it from its housing to reach the plug and reconnect it to a distant working socket by means of a long extension cord.

My wife walks in while I’m reloading the fridge, but I ignore her. She had her chance to be part of the solution, I think, and she didn’t take it.

“Yes, I expect he is feeling ashamed of himself,” she says, loudly. That’s when I realise she is talking to Kitch on speakerphone.

“Here you are,” she says, handing me her phone and walking out of the room. A brief moment of silence follows.

“Tim,” says Kitch. “What happened?”

“It’s not the oven,” I say.

“Go to the fuse box and tell me what you see,” he says. “We’re going to make her think you’re a hero.”

Under Kitch’s instructions, I run through all the switches in sequence, until the problem is isolated to some unknown fault on the top floor. Power is restored to the kitchen and my office.

“You’ve basically done half my job,” he says. “You’re not getting half my invoice.”

“I understand,” I say.

“I hope he’s very grateful, and very sorry,” my wife shouts from the other room.

Later, as I am re-unloading the fridge by myself, I try to recast the whole episode in a way that makes me come out of it better, to no avail.