By Avery Davidson, LSU AgLeadership Class XV member
When you’re thousands of miles away from home, those are two words you never want to hear. However, within five minutes of arriving at our first hotel in Madrid, those two words exited my mouth.
When you travel to another country, like Spain, you know that you’re going to need an adapter for all of your electronic devices. I shoot video, still pictures, have a computer, smartphone, iPad and an electric razor. I REALLY need to charge a lot of batteries… every night… every day… every stop.
So, in a moment of wisdom, I packed my usual adaptor for European plugs, two converters, because I know that the power system here uses 220V AC at 50hz, rather than the U.S. standard of 110V AC at 60hz. I’m prepared. I’m ready. I’m so prepared that I also packed up a power strip from home with a surge protector. Take that, unforeseen power hits.
Yeah, you see, when you are that prepared. That sure. That cocky, something is bound to go wrong.
Confidently, I plugged my converter into the two-pronged wall plug in my king bed hotel room in Madrid. I checked to make sure the small, black converter switch was set to convert 220V AC to 110V AC. I checked it again. Yeah, it’s all set. I’ll just plug my handy, dandy 6-plug power stri— POW!
With a white spark flashing from the translucent purple plastic case of the power strip, it was dead… as was every light in my hotel room. As was the light in the bathroom, where my wife, Lauren, was organizing her toiletries. Within five minutes of arriving at this four-star hotel in Madrid, I had blown the breaker. Fortunately, it was only for my room. My neighbors could still enjoy their phone chargers, refrigerated beverages, electric razors and indoor heating. Lauren and I, not quite.
I immediately began my walk of shame down to the reception desk of the hotel, which was on floor 0, not 1. Apparently the Europeans don’t think enough of their first floors to give them a number. No, you figure out shortly after arrival that if your hotel room is on the first floor, you’re carrying your 48.5 lb. bags, or 22 kg bags, since we’re in Europe where they use the metric system, up a flight of stairs.
Well, here I was, walking down a flight of stairs to floor 0, trying to figure out how I’m going to tell someone in Spanish that I tripped the breaker and I could not find where to flip it back on.
I get to the desk. Do my best to think of the words. Give up. Make a few hand gestures and a sound like air escaping from a pneumatic valve, because that’s the best way I can verbally describe lights going out to a man who probably knows more English than I know Spanish.
The man at the front desk gives me the look of “yeah, the American did something stupid… again” and sends for a tall, kind gentleman wearing a tool belt, gray pants and the kind of polo shirt found in every IT tech’s closet.
He spoke a few words of Spanish to me. I smiled and nodded. I was the idiot here. He came to our room. Moved a part of the ceiling. Reached up with a small screwdriver and with a click, HALLELUJAH!!! God said let there be light, and there was. Ok. In this case, it wasn’t God, but an angel dressed like the maintenance guy at a four star hotel. So, he is the maintenance guy at a four star hotel, but you get the point. I was very, very thankful, embarrassed and humbled all at the same time.
It would be nice if that were the only mishap. You know if I’m typing those words that it’s not.
Shortly after getting into our hotel room in Toledo, Spain, which is an absolutely AMAZING city, I noticed that the breakers were easily accessible on the wall. Whew, I won’t have to call the maintenance guy at this place.
My wife wanted to fix her hair for dinner. She brought her hair straightener from home. I had looked at it before we left and noted that it wouldn’t play well with 220V AC. AHA! I have a reason to use my converter! Yes, the Euro-Converter 9000 will take that super strong 220V AC and knock it down to a much more manageable, and usable, 110V AC! I’m the super smart husband who packed everything we need. Yes. I’m here to save the day, honey. Let me plug that converter into the wall, set it to lower the voltage, then plug your straighten— FZZZZZZ! FZZZZZZZZZTTT!!! FZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZTTTT!!!
Wait. That’s supposed to work. Let me unplug it and then plu— FZZZZZZZZZZZZZTTTTT!!! *silence*
“Sweetheart. It’s dead.”
I’ve deleted the following five minutes of my life from my memory because, well, it’s just too painful. For me and for her.
The bathroom in Toledo was a bit different, too. I noticed the that shower head was above the middle of the tub on the long portion of the bathtub, not on the short end like it would be in the States. I even was sure to tell my wife, “Honey, be sure to push the shower head so that it faces down. If you don’t, when you turn it on, water will shoot clear across the bathroom and get you wet.”
As I’ve stated before, I’ve thought through a lot of things. I didn’t pack an iron, so I hang my shirts in the bathroom as I shower so that the steam helps relax the wrinkles out of the fabric. It’s an easy way to look a little sharper and I was able to save a few pounds of weight on that 48.5 lb, or 22 kg, bag of mine.
So, as I go to shower in the morning, I hang my shirt on the hook above the bidet, on the opposite wall from the shower head. I pull the shower head so that it faces down because, as I told my wife, if it’s facing up it’ll squirt water clear across the bathroom and get you wet.
I turn on the water. Pull up the plunger to activate the shower. The shower head goes back into the position from which I moved it, like it was defying me out of spite, and water proceeds to shoot out across the room and soak the shirt I was planning to wear that day.
I, in a moment of extreme bravery and quick motion, let out a loud, high-pitched “AHHHH!” and turned off the water. Laughter erupted from the next room. Lauren could not stop laughing as I emerged to tell her what happened. She didn't know what had happened, but knew it had to be funny by the loud, high-pitched “AHHHH!” which left my mouth.
Fortunately, I had another shirt. I put the other in my suitcase, wet, and wore it the next day. It was still a little damp.
We still have a few days left on this trip. I don’t know what will happen next, but I do know that if I utter the words “Uh-oh,” the next sound will be laughter and I’ll have another blog post.