Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Plugs (and cobblers)

When I was growing up in the UK, pretty much everything that needed to be plugged in to work was sold without a plug on the end of the cord. This was because there were different plugs used in different parts of the country. At 11 or 12 years old we were taught in science class how to rewire a plug safely. Even when I went to university in the early '80s, the hall of residence where I lived had round-pin plugs rather than the flat-pin ones which are now the standard. There was a thriving trade by the Junior Common Room in reselling plugs from the previous year's graduates to the first years. Nowadays I think it is much more common to buy things with plugs attached. I got very good at rewiring those plugs every time I moved back and forth from home to uni!

I had a summer job here in the US one year where we put new plugs on lamps for college dorm rooms. (The previous year's students having vandalized the lamps.) Each packet with a new plug carried the warning "Only to be installed by a licensed electrician!" It really wasn't that difficult attaching the new plugs!

I recently needed a new plug for my iron. The cord near the plug was getting rather hot, and obviously the wires inside were damaged and a fire hazard. I couldn't simply remove the plug, shorten the wire and reattach the plug because the plug was (by design) fused to the cord. This is common over here. So I needed to buy a new plug, but couldn't find one anywhere. Fortunately, we do have in our town a man who will do small repairs like this. I think it cost me about $8 - far better than replacing my $90 Rowenta iron! Right next door to the electrical repair shop is an actual, honest-to-goodness, cobbler's. The cobbler's is not quite so cheap. $20 to resole a $20 pair of shoes is not worth it to me, though I will happily pay that to get another season out of a $100+ pair of boots. Sadly, both are run by older gentlemen and it looks as though when they finally decide they're ready to retire both will close for good. (The cobbler's store is run by an immigrant from eastern Europe who must now be in his 80's and his son who's in his 60's. The electrician commented that some of the materials he needs for repairs are simply no longer available!)

One of the advantages of the American plugs is that they are a lot smaller than the British ones. Some even only have two prongs instead of three. If you are travelling with a British device that needs to be plugged in, the plug itself is pretty bulky. The plug below is brilliant! I hope they manage to bring it to market!

9 comments:

siobhan said...

Ah yes, I remember, bLue to the left, gReen to the right

giftsofthejourney said...

I would stand in line for this product! Nice post...

Expat mum said...

AND - don't forget what happens when you stand on one! Ouch!

Iota said...

Briliant invention.

in the left lane said...

I just really wish there was a universal plug--flat pins, round pins, smaller American edition, whatever. Every time I plug something in, I need a converter, and I'm convinced a little converter gnome steals them when I'm not looking.

NFAH said...

Perhaps I could convince you to pop by mine and rewire two of my lamps that I brought over from America.

Almost American said...

@NFAH - no problem, though unless you send me a plane ticket, you'll have a long wait I'm afraid till the next time I'm in the UK!

sablonneuse said...

Oh gosh, I remember the variety of plugs years ago because I helped out in my parents' electrical shop. I was taught how to put plugs on at the age of 12 but customers were sometimes a bit iffy if I did it for them and wanted it checked. Nowadays we have a mixture of French and English plugs on our appliances but adapters are easy to come by.

Paul said...

All electrical appliances in the UK now come with plugs - it was an EU Regulation as people were electricuting themselves when wiring on plugs!

This does look cool though, I would love one of these plugs. I have a few UK things here in the US and the plugs to take up so much space!

Paul - Brit in the USA!

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