Fix-It Friday: Four Girlfriends And An Overloaded Circuit… The Night The Lights Went Out In Manhattan

Girl Hunter
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I can remember a night, several summers ago, three girlfriends and I went into Manhattan for a special Girls’ Night Out. We booked a room at an ultra-posh hotel and met there to have a cocktail before going up to our room to get glammed up and hit the town.

Well, you can imagine the scene: Dance music is blasting from the stereo, the TV’s on too (even though no one’s watching it), there are two blow dryers, a flat iron and a curling iron all being used at the same time, and every single light fixture is on because we need good light to do our makeup. Simply put, we were pulling enough electricity to power Rhode Island!

women getting ready

It’s my turn in the shower, I’m shampooing when – “POP!” The lights go out!

So there I am, just about to enter the rinse cycle and it all goes black. This is followed by shrieks and cursing from my crazy friends (Brooklyn girls can pass from fright to pissed off in about three seconds). They start yelling to me, “Norma! What the f@#$ do we do?!”

I’m naked, wet, and have shampoo burning my eyes. “What the hell are you asking me for? I can’t even find my way out of the bathtub!”

Of course my girls know I’m the fix-it queen, but guess what? I’m naked, wet, and have shampoo burning my eyes. “What the hell are you asking me for? I can’t even find my way out of the bathtub!”

Thank God someone had the brains to call the front desk. A half-hour filled with the most intense giggling I can remember passed before they sent someone up to flip the circuit breaker and reprimand us for using every single outlet in the room simultaneously. Sorry, man.

If the lights suddenly go out, and you know that there hasn’t been an actual blackout, there is a short or overload in your electrical system. So what do you do? Reset the circuit breaker… here’s my how to:

Resetting a Circuit Breaker

A circuit breaker is designed to turn off, or “trip,” the electricity when there’s a short or overload in the circuit. If this happens, you will need to reset the circuit breaker. If all the steps below have been taken and your breaker keeps tripping, get on the horn with an electrician.


  • Flashlight

The Fix

  1. Turn off and unplug whatever electrical items you were using before the lights went out.
  2. Open your service panel (see my previous post: Do-It-Yourself-Electrical) and see which breaker toggle is in the off position (some breakers trip to a middle or neutral position, rather than completely off). The tripped toggle will be the one in a different position than the others.
  3. Flip that toggle all the way to the off position, then flip it to the on position.
  4. Now go back and, one by one, plug in and turn on whatever electrical items you were using before the breaker tripped. If it trips again, you have overloaded the circuit and need to plug some of the items you were using into a different circuit branch (see my previous post: Do-It-Yourself-Electrical). Another possible cause for tripping a breaker may be that one of your electrical items is short-circuiting or overheating. Check each element for damaged or hot cords, smoke residue, or a burning odor.

Wishing everyone a very happy, blackout-free National Girlfriends Day! But if you and your girls do trip the circuit breaker this weekend (or any time), now you’ll know exactly what to do to get the lights back on the flat irons powered back up!

Norma sig

Got A DIY Question? Ask-The-Expert!

If you have a DIY home repair, maintenance or improvement question for Norma, now is your chance to ask-the-expert and have her answer. Your burning question may just be the “star” of an upcoming Fix-It Friday column.

Add your question to the comments section below or email it to Women You Should Know.

Fix-It Friday is an exclusive Women You Should Know® editorial series authored by seasoned veteran of home improvement, Norma Vally, the former host of Discovery Home Channel’s series “Toolbelt Diva” and a show on Sirius Satellite Radio by the same name. The weekly column is designed to inspire women – weekend warriors, aspiring handywomen, and even seasoned DIYers – to take on home repairs and maintenance projects with confidence and gusto.