Janet Combs

Janet Combs

I used to love the game “Twister” when I was growing up — it consisted of a preprinted mat with colored circles and a spinner featuring the same colors, directing placement of your hands and feet on the mat.

Because I am more flexible than I am strong, I could easily contort myself into an uncomfortable position and manage to hold it until the next person spun the spinner. I’m not trying to brag, but my Twister aptitude translated to a lot of wins at “limbo” contests throughout my teenage years; as a young adult, I was the person most likely selected to shimmy through a narrow open upstairs window when friends were locked out of their homes. These life skills taught and honed by the game Twister have served me well in spite of the fact that they have never been highlighted in my resumes and job interviews.

Take the other day, for example, when I spent three and a half hours in the attic playing the adult version of the game, called “rewire the oven and incorporate a junction box.” There’s a lot more at stake in this game; one wrong move with your foot and you’re coming through the drywall on the kitchen ceiling. Also, because I am not 12 years old, more than five minutes with my upper body stooped at 45-degree angle and my knees bent in a chair pose causes weird cramps in the body region commonly referred to as “pretty much everywhere.”

Unbeknownst to us, the old oven wiring in our home was just a tangle of cords amassed with wads of electrical tape, otherwise known as “not up to code.” We thought it would be a fairly easy job — we would shut off the breaker, remove the electrical tape and properly rewire the oven in a junction box. Due to my Twister prowess, I offered to get up there and handle it while my husband provided instructions from the scuttle hole at the top of the bedroom closet. That was the plan.

It was cold and cramped in the attic, and I had to push some boards ahead of me as I crawled on my knees over the joists hidden under the insulation to the space where the wad o’wires was. When I got there, I slid a piece of plywood under it and me, so I could lean on my side and work. With a razor knife, I slit the electrical tape at the thickest part, about the size of my fist. But something happens to electrical tape after decades in a non-climate-controlled environment: it becomes a rigid, superhero-style impenetrable skin. Peeling it away took me at least a half hour, revealing three thick wires covered with (sigh!) yet more electrical tape.

“What are you seeing?” my husband asked, his head just above the scuttle hole.

“I don’t know,” I said, “Three black wires?”

This was his cue to join me, which meant I had to Twister myself over the planks and crouch while he worked, attempting to direct my phone’s flashlight onto his hands. Foolishly, I decided to sit in the “V” created by the roof trusses, which I found to be infinitely more comfy for my upper body and vastly more excruciating for my lower region. Also, to my horror, once I lowered myself into the roof truss “V,” I was not entirely confident I could get back up.

Meanwhile, my husband was making rapid progress with the rewiring.

“Janet,” he said, “can you come over here and hold the junction box for a second?”

This was my defining moment. Boldly, I moved one foot to the joist on the right — “Right foot, RED” and the other to the joist on the left, “Left foot, YELLOW.” Trusting my Twister training, I was able to hoist myself up to the attic’s allowable hunched height!

Thank you, Hasbro, for yesterday. And thank you, ibuprofen, for today.

Janet Combs is a freelance writer living in Georgetown County. Her column is published regularly in the Georgetown Times. Contact her at https://janetfrickecombs.wordpress.com.