-1
$\begingroup$

This is my first time posting here so bear with me. Also, the circumstances are strange so I am posting quite a bit of detail because I don't know what is relevant and what is not.

The short story is I went snorkeling tonight in Southern California. Afterwards I went back to my car, took off my wet suit, and drove to starbucks (a mile away). After parking I went to the pay station, and when putting my credit card in I felt something very similar to what I would call an electric shock. Not the feeling of a static discharge, more like the feeling I get when replacing a light switch after turning off the wrong circuit breaker. It was a continuous sensation and very jolting (I jumped back a few feet), but definitely not as strong as the few times I have been shocked doing home repairs. I then went to get my parking receipt from the bottom of the machine and once again I got shocked, this time even stronger. Both parts of the machine that caused the shock were metal.

I then started to try and problem solve. My wife came over and asked what was going on. I told her and she touched the same places as me without anything happening. She then had me hand to her my phone and the digital camera that I was holding. I touched the machine again and whoa, same result. She tried touching the machine in various places, again nothing. I inadvertently touched her hand while she was touching the machine and then suddenly she felt it too. We were able to repeat that several times, and then, scratching our heads, we headed into starbucks. We came back out 15 minutes later after drinking our hot chocolate and tried to reproduce the phenomenon with no luck.

Now I am going to give you all the relevant (and probably many irrelevant) details I can think of:

  1. I was wearing flip flops from the time I stripped off my neoprene wet suit at the car until the time I started getting shocked (my wife was wearing Birkenstocks).
  2. I had been snorkeling for about an hour in the Pacific Ocean wearing a full body wet-suit, booties, and gloves (no hood).
  3. I had been camping the night before and consumed quite a bit of Gatorade.
  4. My wife had only been wearing a spring suit and gloves, no booties.
  5. There was another receipt that had been left in the machine (maybe someone else had been shocked as well and decided it wasn't worth the risk of going after it?)

I can't think of anything else relevant. Any insights into what was going on here would be welcome. I tried calling the maintainers of the machine but couldn't get through (this was before I found out that I seemed to be the only one affected).

Thanks!

$\endgroup$

closed as off-topic by John Rennie, AccidentalFourierTransform, user36790, CuriousOne, ACuriousMind May 16 '16 at 21:18

  • This question does not appear to be about physics within the scope defined in the help center.
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it isn't about physics $\endgroup$ – John Rennie May 15 '16 at 6:08
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnRennie there should be a physics explanation after all. $\endgroup$ – anna v May 15 '16 at 8:06
0
$\begingroup$

She tried touching the machine in various places, again nothing. I inadvertently touched her hand while she was touching the machine and then suddenly she felt it too.

From this it is evident you were a good conductor to the ground.

You later say :

We came back out 15 minutes later after drinking our hot chocolate and tried to reproduce the phenomenon with no luck.

So no charge was passing through you any longer?

15 minutes is too little a time to change your conductivity. It could be a combination of an intermittent fault in the circuit and your conductivity at that time. You should alert their maintenance to be on the safe side.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, no charge passing through me after 15 minutes. I'll alert their maintenance. $\endgroup$ – Pacman May 15 '16 at 19:26
0
$\begingroup$

Salt water is an excellent conductor. If you were still damp, and if the machine were broken in the right way, the salt water on your skin and slippers may have provided a route for a charge to flow to ground. Your wife with dry shoes, and you after drying out in the shop wouldn't.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ My wife was definitely more wet than me at the time as she still had her bathing suit on and I had changed completely into dry clothes (also I have less hair than her :) ) $\endgroup$ – Pacman May 15 '16 at 19:26

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.