One day my father explained to me that in the wintertime electricity was stored in the carpet. I was only eight years old and my skepticism was met with a wry smile and the offer of proof. “Take off your shoes and brush your feet along the carpet all around the house. Then touch something and you will see the electricity,” he told me. He went on to say, “that’s because you are gathering electricity through your socks, into your body and storing it there until you release it through your finger.” I didn’t understand it at the time but he was clearly trying to instill and build my curiosity for scientific discovery and teach me to think before taking action.
Because I was only eight I instantly dismissed all of this as complete nonsense. Dad did have an accomplished sense of humor coupled with his constant effort to make me think and he often took advantage of a son’s natural tendency to believe everything his father told him. So I was constantly trying not to be so gullible. Yet, I did think about it. I thought about it the rest of the day, that night, and the next day while I was at school. Because I was so conscious of my gullibility, I couldn’t talk to anyone about it. So when I got home from school I finally decided to see if this was another of his little jokes. I looked all around to make sure no one was watching, took off my shoes, and started scuffing my feet on the carpet all around the house. I felt nothing. My feet felt nothing. For 15 minutes, I trekked around the house. Nothing happened and I began to shake my head with the realization that Dad had done it to me again.
I ended my trek in the kitchen where Mom was doing some dishes. I was really dejected at this point and then I remembered that Dad had said that after I had gathered up all the electricity from the carpet, I needed to touch something to prove that it had worked. I was even more skeptical at this point but I really needed to find out. So I walked up behind Mom and touched the back of her neck with my finger. What I saw was amazing! I saw the most beautiful blue arc extend from my finger to her neck and then a little crack when it ended. Wow! He wasn’t kidding! This really did work! My father really was a genius!
That’s when it all turned bad. Almost immediately I heard a plate crash and break. I’m not sure I had ever seen my mother so angry. My scientific experimentation and discovery was rewarded with a one-way ticket to my room for the rest of the day. A few hours later, Dad came home from work and I heard some yelling in the kitchen, followed by some muffled laughter from my father, followed by more yelling from my mother, followed by … well you get the idea.
My sisters came home from high school while I was still in my room and I’m not sure they were ever told about my activities that day. I then was released from my room in time for dinner and the subject of my experimentation with electricity, and Dads part in it, never came up again. I did have an amazing amount of fun showing my friends at school what I could do for the rest of the week. However, the eight year old girls who were unlucky enough to be close by were less than amused.
Then a few years later, whenever Dad believed I was being taken in by some scam or other, he would ask me about those electrons in the carpet. It was always his subtle reminder to think things through before taking action. My father had the most unusual and interesting way of teaching.
© J T Weaver
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