On the day before Christmas Eve, little Kurt Berndt and his father produced a short circuit. Residents of the whole street had no electricity for hours. Photo: © chonticha – stock.adobe.com
Kurt Berndt always enjoyed the Christmas holidays with his family. Photo (2); ZVG/ K. Berndt
It was the day before Christmas Eve. In the city the fir tree was lit, the stores were brightly illuminated. In Mietzner’s bakery it smelled like Christmas. The master baker had just pulled the stollen we had brought to bake out of the oven. Now all that was left was to coat it with good butter so that it shone beautifully. It didn’t take long at all, and our three Stollen were lying on the tray ready to be picked up. Mrs. Muller had put a linen cloth over it. So let’s go home!
Once there, my mother and I went into my attic chamber and put the tin with the studs on the small brown cupboard. In this chamber, the stud could still get a little crumbly. It tastes best like this.
"Ouch cheek, if this does not go wrong"!
On the floor I noticed a strange smell. Normally it smelled like fresh laundry there, but this time it was something else. I could not define the smell. In a corner there was also a crackling. We had to get to the bottom of this! I dashed downstairs and fetched a flashlight. Dusk had already set in. The crackling first had to be localized. It sounded like a little mouse scratching something together in a corner. But the smell was strange.
I had shone into almost all corners, until I came near a window. The smell was strongest here, the crackling noise also increased. A power line ran from the courtyard along the front wall of the house to the floor. This is where the noises and the smell came from. The bare wires peeked out of a distribution box. The insulation was hanging down charred. In the box was the crackling sound. "Ouch cheek, if this does not go wrong!"I thought to myself. But my father was the electrician in the house, so nothing could happen. If only he would come soon! It took another two hours. Two hours that almost didn’t pass. At last I heard the bell of his bicycle. I hurried downstairs to tell him everything. "Well, let’s go and see what you’ve discovered". In the light of the flashlight, even he felt quite different, I could see it in his face.
As if the Christ Child were falling from the sky
"I’m glad you were so vigilant, there could quite easily be a fire. Quick, bring me my tool bag!", my father said. I scurried down the stairs as if my life depended on it. The tool bag contained everything an electrician needs to help other people after work. It was mostly about the other people. Imeigen household was so sometimes something defective, and the repair lasted. For others it was always faster.
But back to the distribution box: When it was opened, we saw the mess: All cables were bare, lightning was flashing back and forth. Father explained that it was creeping current. When the new cable was laid, one of the screws was forgotten to be tightened. Once the cable gets contact, and once it is repelled. "We have to be very careful," said my father, the electrician, "otherwise there’ll be a short."On a contact point lay a piece of plaster from the masonry, it had fallen down. With an elegant hand movement he tried to push it down with the screwdriver. That’s when it happened: with a flash of light, the screwdriver flew through the air. It was as if the Christ Child was falling from the sky. My father was sitting on the seat of his pants, I had dropped the lamp.
In the whole street there was no window lighted
Heavenly peace followed. Then voices got loud, and little lights started moving around the house. What was that? The two of us, the electrician and his assistant, looked out of the floor window. It was dark, not a single window in the whole street was illuminated. "Surely the neighbors can’t have all turned out the lights at once," I thought.
No, we had created a short circuit. What now? Quickly bring out the flashlight and look for another turner. Turning the cap on the distribution box. Ready! Where is he, the other one, the electric arc screwdriver? Then I found it – all that was left was the handle. That could have been an eyeful! In the big power house, the fuse for the whole street had blown out. So we rode our bikes to the master electrician. In the snow we slid and slid more than we drove. Already after one hour the mechanics came and pulled new cables. The damage was officially repaired. Now Santa Claus could come. That’s when it came. Somehow he looked like the great electrician.