Cold, dry weather creates static problem

By Karl Terry

It may be cold outside, but at least it’s a dry cold.

That little summertime saying can be turned around by those of us in eastern New Mexico to create complete nonsense during the winter — unless you love the charge you get from static electricity.

It’s been a really dry winter. How dry has it been you ask? I don’t want to alarm anyone but I got a report that fishermen have taken to guarding the pond at Oasis State Park. It seems they were trying to refill it last week after repairs, and the coyotes and lizards were drinking the water so fast they couldn’t get the pond full and stocked.

It’s so dry I saw two trees fighting over a dog last week. It surprised me so, I fainted. They had to throw two buckets of sand in my face to bring me around.

As the winter continues with one blue norther (dry cold front) after another the humidity in my home and at the office continues to drop. Static electricity is starting to become a problem.

On a particularly windy day I can come into the office, hang up my hat and coat, walk up front to get my messages and give the girls in the office a great laugh. The sight of the few thin strands of hair I have on top of my noggin standing straight up has an amusing effect on them.

I’ve always hated getting shocked, whether it was from an electric fence charger, a shorted out can opener or just touching the door knob when the static electricity is bad. I would just as soon you kick me in the knee as take a good electrical jolt.

It never seemed to bother my brother and my dad too much to get that static zap. I actually remember Dad walking across the carpet to pick up a good charge and then touching his tongue to someone’s ear to get a really good spark.

Mom’s fuzzy house shoes were great at producing a charge and if my brother was in the mood to irritate, he put them on and shuffled across the carpet so he could shock people.

Wardrobes have to be altered this time of year around here because of the static. Anything black or navy blue is out as the dog hair, lint and other flotsam that sticks to these articles is a little too noticeable and impossible to pick off. My wife has a few dresses that cling so much when loaded with static that she’s had to stop and change at times.
I got a wonderful suede-feeling shirt with a lot of nylon in the lining for Christmas. Unfortunately it produces more electricity than one of those Honda generators. I take it off the hanger and it crackles. I put it on and walk by the dog and his hair stands straight out toward the shirt.

It’s bad enough to be sitting in church or a public meeting and notice one of those little drier sheets sticking out your pants leg. It’s really embarrassing to pull out an article of underwear that’s been clinging to the inside of your pant leg.

My cloth-covered recliner has also developed quite a charge. The dog hates walking over to see me while I’m sitting in the chair because he gets his nose shocked.

One of the worst jolts I’ve gotten lately and the one that surprised me most was after I had been sitting in that chair talking on the cordless phone. One day I went to hang it back on its cradle in the kitchen. Even after walking on the tile I got a jolt through the phone that almost caused me to lose control of a few key bodily functions. I was sure I must have gotten a live shot of household juice somehow. But as I timidly worked up the courage to touch the phone again I discovered the electricity had all been discharged.

If it keeps this up I’m investing in a humidifier or booking a winter tour to the rainforest.

Karl Terry is managing editor of the Portales News-Tribune. He can be reached at 356-4481, ext. 33, or by e-mail: