Pavane for a Dead Phone Charger

I once had a wonderful, simple, practical, brilliant device that made my life serene, beautiful, and carefree. I still remember the day that I opened the box to my new Blackberry 8830. I slowly extended my hand, touched it gently with my fingers, and then carefully lifted it out. No, not the phone, which was a phone like any other phone, without even the distinction of being an iPhone. The CORD. The incredible, fantastic, never-seen-before-or-since phone charger cord. It looked simple enough. On one end was a mini-USB to fit into the neat little matching slot on my phone. But the other end. Oh, the other end. The end that plugs into the wall was the part that made the world suddenly perfect. It looked like a regular plug, just like any other plug. But you could take off the end of it (the part with the two prongs), if you were traveling internationally. It came with a little bag of alternative ends for use in different parts of the world. You just snapped on the correct prong attachment, and you were ready to go. No having to ask at multiple hardware, electronics, and superstores for that little plug adaptor that nobody seemed to have, either in the country you’re coming from or the country you’re going to. No ill-fitting adaptor that kept falling off the cord or out of the wall. No ending up in another country and realizing your electronics were useless because they couldn’t plug into the wall in the first place. No hoarding the battery because it had to last the whole trip. No losing the adaptor in the bottom of the bag, or inadvertently leaving it at the airport. Bliss. Pure bliss.

For the next couple of years until the phone died, I was happy every time I plugged it into the wall, whether it was with two dainty flat prongs, two long round prongs, or three ultra-sturdy diagonal prongs. Even after the phone was no more, the cord lived on when I discovered that it could replace the lost cord to our treasured talking globe. I loved that cord. In fact, if Tony hasn’t found it and thrown it away as useless, it may be still packed away somewhere, just in case I ever have the good fortune to find another use for it.

If this sounds over the top to you, then you just don’t understand. Let me give you a peek at my electronic life. To start out, even before we started traveling internationally, I hated The Electronics Box. I never had a box like that before I was married, mostly because I really wasn’t that in to electronics. But with Tony came his box, which was full of various telephone, internet, and electrical cords. I never knew what anything went to, and I was always afraid of plugging something into the wrong thing and blowing it out. In reality, the only things we’ve actually ever destroyed (even internationally) are not one, but two rechargeable battery chargers. I think one happened in the Philippines with the one we brought from the United States, and the other happened in the United States with the one we bought in the Philippines to replace the first. I guess that means that whatever their ecological benefits, in our family rechargeable batteries actually take quite a long time to pay for themselves.

Now that we’ve moved around and around, Tony’s box is bursting at the seams, and even more frustrating. Due to our short move to Ireland, it’s now full of useless converters that change European plugs into British ones and British plugs into European ones. But for some reason, we have only one that converts American plugs to European ones. And it’s an ancient one left over from when Tony lived in Indonesia as a teenager. We have to prop it up to keep it from falling out of the wall. And forget everything if someone trips over the cord. Nevertheless, it’s one of the most popular items in the house. It floats around from my computer to my phone charger to Tony’s razor, keeping everything charged just barely enough to survive.

Fortunately (or unfortunately), my electric toothbrush, which is also American, doesn’t run on European voltage (voltage! That’s a whole other subject that I won’t even venture in to here). So it doesn’t have to go into the rotation. In fact, it is equipped with its own mysterious-looking black box that converts not only the plug, but also the voltage. That little black box, which must weigh five or six pounds, has been the cause of countless airport security line delays, especially since I usually cleverly pack it inside the little leg of one of Dominique’s jeans to keep it from rolling around in the suitcase and destroying things. The suicidal act of packing it in a carry-on bag in the first place happens paradoxically because of its small size and impressive weight. After all, Ryanair is ruthless about check-in weight, but with carry-ons, you can usually get away with whatever you want, as long as you make sure to carry your bag as if it weighed twenty pounds rather than fifty.

I don’t think we own a device at the moment that is actually equipped with a real European plug. (Oh, except our five euro alarm clock, which Tony always forgets to set correctly. When it is the middle of the night, my brain just cannot figure out what 14:00 means). Our blender, juicer, and iron were all purchased in Ireland. Irish plugs are the same as British ones, and I think they have the best design. Even though they are five times as big as an American plug, they will never fall out of the wall. However, the very size and sturdiness that makes them so secure when you’re plugging them into a matching wall socket, causes major problems when you’re trying to convert them. Especially to the notoriously flimsy European ones. You end up with a cord that looks like a snake digesting a light-bulb, and will begin to be loose at the wall in about five days.

Someday, in a perfect world, all cords everywhere will be designed with international prongs that snap on and off. Or perhaps a world dictator will eventually force everyone to use the same wall sockets. Until then, I guess I’ll just be dreaming about that phone charger cord that once upon a time so easily and gracefully eliminated 75 percent of the stress and ugliness from my life.