My best “one time my dad …” story

Happy Father’s Day

Craig McClarren
2 min readJun 20, 2021
My Dad, brothers and I visiting the Badlands

One time my dad decided to do some electrical work on the house by himself. Who needs a licensed electrician? Not this guy!

It only took him about 15 minutes to do whatever he was trying to do, and in the end, everything worked… just not how it was supposed to. My bedroom light switch now controlled the living room lights. The bathroom light switch controlled the garage lights. Everything was random and horrifically mixed up. I still don’t understand how the hell it happened.

Still, there’s clearly no need to get an electrician out for this, my dad decided. My brothers and I spent the next week, hours each day, running around the house and testing switches and yelling the results to my dad, who was in the garage and trying to fix whatever the hell he’d gotten wrong.

“Craig, turn on your bedroom light!”

“Ok, it’s switched on!”

“Did anything happen?!”


(my brother) “The kitchen lights are on!”


“The kitchen lights are on!”

“Turn on the kitchen light switch and tell me what happens!”

“Ok… the garbage disposal just turned on!”

“Turn it off!! Now, go flip the switch for the garbage disposal! Did anything happen?”


“Where’s your other brother?! Get him to check the house and find out what’s on!”

(me) “Should I turn off my light switch?”

(my brother) “Hey, I think the refrigerator stopped running!”

(me) “Can someone turn on the bathroom light for me? I need to pee!”

“I think that switch is in the dining room!”

A week of this insane trial and error went by. Then, just when I thought that I was going to have to get used to living in a madhouse for the rest of my days, somehow, my dad got everything back to the way it was. He was banned from doing electrical work on the house, though. I’ve remembered that lesson and always make sure to have someone who knows what they’re doing do anything I’m not 100% sure about, especially when it involves wiring.


If any electricians can make an educated guess as to what exactly he did, I would love that. I was 8 at the time and this was over 30 years ago. The house was probably built in the 70s. I believe it involved a junction box. I’ve also heard of something called “loop in” wiring, which may explain it somehow. The house was in the US, in California. Seriously, if you’re an electrician and you know what the heck he did, please share!



Craig McClarren

Geologist, a lover of all science, father of a young child, published writer on Forbes and Mental Floss