...once upon a time, Thomas Edison, Charles Steinmetz, Guglielmo Marconi, and Nicolas Tesla-
all Big Marble, indeed, in the Pantheon of All Things Electrical at the beginning of the 20th
century--were sitting around planning how to make my life miserable many years hence. (They
were true visionaries!)
Edison: "I figure we can wire this guy's house such that...
Marconi: "...everything will work fine, even things like radio and TV...maybe even a DVD player."
Edison: "What's that?"
Marconi: " I don't know."
Steinmetz: "Jawohl! Even zose zings vat haven't been invented yet!
Tesla: "The charged pion and antipion decay respectively into a muon plus antineutrino with an
average lifetime of...uh...2.603 times 10 to the minus 8 seconds..."
Steinmetz: [Turning to Tesla] Uh, Nick, you'd better pass that bottle of Slivowitz over here, my
Tesla (a notoriously loose cannon on the slippery deck of genius): "And then...wait...ok...ok...listen
to this: we fix it so that the guy upstairs gets an electric shock whenever he touches metal in his
bathroom! Matthews will then have to get his own apartment totally rewired--or wind up in jail!
Edison: "Nick, you are truly one sick puppy, but I like it."
And so it came to pass. When I first came to Italy, I recall that there were two kinds of plugs and
respective wall sockets: two-prong narrow gauge and two-prong industrial gauge (the prongs set
wider apart and of larger diameter than the other kind (all prongs are cylindrical). I don't know why
there were industrial sockets in private homes, but I do remember that the electricity cost less per
square electron if you used them, so I spent a lot of time trying to find adaptors such that everything
I wanted to plug in went into the industrial sockets. I was no doubt drawing vast amounts of power
from the great Italian industrial grid--but more about the Great Blackout at a later date.
(Apparently, as I found on Capri, not too long ago, there was an additional two-prong extra-narrow
gauge from the 1930s that nothing would plug into except Tiberius' home phone. Adaptors are
impossible to find.)
Note that everything was two-prong. The New Europe now demands that everything be three-prong
(the middle one being a ground). No electrical equipment is sold today with old two-prong plugs,
and a lot of people I know have displayed considerable ingenuity getting rid of that third prong so
the plug will fit into an old socket. Small hacksaw blades--such as those found on Swiss knives
(not from the Swiss Army, but from the Swiss National Penitentiary for the Criminally Insane) are
good for that. It's cheaper than getting every wall socket in the house replaced. After all, what can
happen, right? I mean, except to the guy upstairs.