by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
August 7, 2007
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Wires are unsightly. There is not another word in the thesaurus to better illustrate my point. The suggested words are ugly, hideous, unattractive, unprepossessing, nasty, and horrid. No, wires are merely unsightly - like crabgrass sprouting everywhere across a well-manicured lawn.
Advertisers know this making certain that wires are never seen in the ads for furniture or model homes. In the current issue of Southern Living, there is an ad for a strong paper towel. The model is blithely holding a refrigerator aloft in one hand while she kneels down and wipes up the spilled milk with a single sheet of the strong paper towel. What's wrong with this picture? Well, along with the photograph suggesting the homemaker could hold a refrigerator in one hand, there are no wires plugging it in.
Where I sit now, I don't even have to turn my head to see wires, wires, wires. Inches away from my right foot, I know that five outlets on one power surge protector are keeping me plugged in as I write. It has a red light assuring me that it's "on," but another red light on the device is flickering - and I don't know why. But since everything is working, I'm ignoring what could be the signal of imminent danger.
Life around me has been plugged in for as long as I can remember. It's become more sophisticated over the years, of course, but basically - no, not even basically. I don't know a thing about it. It's reassuring to me, however, to discover the following information as written by Stefan Fassbinder and Bruno De Wachter: "The system that delivers electricity to users is highly complex. While electricity is an omnipresent and crucial part of our everyday economy, understanding this system and all its associated phenomena is not easy, sometimes even for trained electrical engineers." <http://www.leonardo-energy.org>
That makes me feel better. All I really know is what happens when you break the rules of co-existing with this omnipresent source of so many things I need. I was a very little girl when I re-wired my first iron.
"Connie," my mother said, "your hands are small enough to twist these copper wires at this end to the copper wires on the end of this piece, and do the same with the other side. Careful not to let them touch each other or we'll blow a fuse when we plug it in. When they're twisted, I'll put this black tape around it to keep the wires apart and to allow the current to run through it. It will be good as new."
I knew by her careful explanation that I could do exactly what she wanted but I didn't really understand what I was doing. "What's a fuse? Why is the tape black and sticky on both sides? What is current?"
The iron had been plugged into a small brown fixture that was designed to allow five appliances to be connected to the same wall socket. (The whole room had only one socket.) Ideally, not all appliances would be turned on at once but it did happen occasionally that someone would make toast while the radio was on and the fan blew cool breezes across the room. The electric coffee maker caused added strain to the system, and then sparks would fly, literally.
When that happened, we'd all look at each other wondering who overloaded the system. The smell of ozone would emanate from the wall plug now charred black and as we looked from one to the other, we saw it was Mama who caused it that time. She decided to iron just when the coffee started to perk and the toast was ready to pop.
The wires were covered with finely woven fabric and just wore out here and there from handling. When the wires were exposed, they had to be spliced as I had been taught to do by separating the strands and taping them securely.
As primitive as it was then, I do not see any great differences now. I can and do still overload circuits, only now I have a circuit breaker so there's no fuse to replace. The fabric cords have been replaced with plastic or rubber but they're still "there." Of course, the cords are not pictured in magazines but they do multiply on my kitchen counter.
Notice: Except in an advertisement for a television set, you will not see a tv set in the living rooms of the home-and-garden type magazines - there no way to conceal the wires. If the ad is for a huge flat-screen television, the decorator will place it over the fireplace with a screen-saver of colorful fish gracefully moving in their silent world. You must assume the plug goes through the wall behind it.
Along with exposed wires here and there all over this home office I'm sitting in right now, I also have a dozen "adapters" to plug in and charge laptops, portable DVD players, telephones, cell phones, portable television sets and the like. Not one is compatibLe with any other electronic device except the one that came in the box. They're never stored too far out of reach but left readily available - half-coiled and jumbled up on a shelf.
We can't let the word "wireless" fool us. There is no such thing as a truly wireless device; they are all charged with electricity to prepare the device for later use. Wireless devices are only good for as long as its electrical charge allows. The WiFicoffee shops all over the world are comfortable and inviting offering not only a place to sit, work or relax, but, more importantly, the best ones wisely provide an electrical outlet right next to your table.
Batteries do go dead. And make no mistake: The only thing keeping those wireless cafés thriving is that electrical outlet connecting patrons to the "omnipresent and crucial part" of their everyday lives.