Electricity, or a Lack Thereof

Tiffany and I have traveled around the world quite a bit. We’ve been many places in Europe, one or two in Asia, and even a couple in South America. I know I take a lot of things for granted. Like English.

Or, for example, electricity. Normally, I think of this as something bordering on a right, up there with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Clearly, I don’t do a lot of camping.

Normally my electrical problems are limited to “How am I going to get these prongs to fit into these holes?” We’ve bought a few plug adapters for things like laptops that need a lot of power, but for most everything else we’ve tried as much as possible to invest in things that charge over USB.

Phones? USB. Mobile WiFi? USB. Camera? USB (best idea ever by the way). Electric toothbrushes? USB (maybe this is the best idea ever). Tiff’s face scrubber thing? USB. This has created another problem in our house, namely that we have four USB ports between two computers with which to charge everything.

Maybe if we could combine more features... combination cameraphone-toothbrush, anybody?
Maybe if we could combine more features… combination cameraphone-toothbrush, anybody?

But this isn’t a post about plug adapters or charging stuff, this is a post about electricity. Specifically, just how feeble Sicilian wiring can be.

Coincidentally, the power is out today. Our landlord had the electrician over to look at it, and apparently the heater has broken (mare, e tutto il sale) and keeps tripping the circuit breaker. The same circuit that powers our five feet of kitchen, the lights upstairs, and random lights and outlets throughout the house. Looks like we’re eating out tonight, BUT I’ve learned a new vocab word: non funzioni.

The bathroom, one light in the bedroom, and (thank God) the WiFi are all still working. These things are all closer to the heater than other things that are not working.


So while I sit here by candlelight, I’m reminded of all the times I’ve been thwarted by Sicilian electricity. Like when I tried to use a toaster at our apartment in Ortigia, but it had a German-style plug and there weren’t any outlets in the kitchen that fit it, so I made toast in the hallway. For a week. Until the cleaning lady came by and showed me where the adapter was. She got a good laugh out of that.


Or the time I completely disassembled my laptop thinking something had begun shorting inside it, because I got the constant buzz of electricity every time I touched the metal parts. If I plugged in my phone to charge it, I couldn’t use the touchscreen anymore because the built up charge interfered with the touchiness. Turns out, grounding is a negotiable feature in Sicilian wiring, and my laptop literally builds up a charge when it’s plugged in but not grounded. That’s still a feature today, which has become even more of a problem now that the battery doesn’t hold a charge.

There’s also our two weeks in Agnone Bagni last year where at night it was completely dark because Augusta failed to pay the bills to turn on the street lights. Good thing there wasn’t anybody else in town, because otherwise that would have been really, really eerie.

And now there’s a new one. Since we have no heat, our landlord has thoughtfully brought us a nice, big space heater to use with our one working outlet to heat the house. Normally these things are pretty simple, but this one has two knobs and four switches, and I cannot figure out how to turn the damn thing on. All the print’s been worn off (I suspect it was in Italian anyway), and my usual trick of looking up a manual online hasn’t helped because apparently this heater doesn’t exist. Oh well, I’ll keep trying. Cold is a good motivator.

This is like Myst. Some combination of settings on this alien device will make me warmer.
This is like Myst. Some combination of settings on this alien device will make me warmer. Just bring me more blue pages.

Next time I’m in the US I am SO totally going to hug an electrician.

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