The extension cords are gone.
A fixture of the house since moving in, they snaked from good outlets across the living room, under my bed, under the kitchen sink. The two-lead kind with the three-plug block on one end, they were ganged together for the correct length, grey block 2-t0-3 prong adapters sprinkled as necessary. They led around the disabled outlets, faces covered with black electrical tape.
The house is old and has electrical interfaces I’ve never seen: single round two-prong plugs set in the floor, fixed with a brass plate; a wall switch with a turning knob, the contact so loud I don’t use it at night. More are covered black electrical tape than not.
One in the living room floor is scorched brown and black. The landlady showed the back of the cabinet that stood over it, the wood softly charred in a hand-sized plume. “This, here, was the fire,” she said.
I don’t question the ones that work. The laptop has been plugged into one–a modern-looking, 3-prong one–since arriving. The underside of the house, where all the wiring is visible in conduits and stapled cable, shows ample rust. Lots of two-to-three prong grey blocks.
Sunday I did the Mauna Loa hike. While I struggled with altitude and ill-fitting shoes, the landlady had a friend come as a favor. Within an hour the electricity was repaired. No more extension cords to the front room lamp and TV, and the garbage disposal works off the switch instead of an extension cord to another outlet. Yesterday afternoon she woke me up to show what I’d already figured out.
The mess of wires on my bedroom floor is now gone. The one plug that works is across the room from the one working phone jack the DSL requires. The whole time here I’ve never tripped on the extension cord sneaking across the room, directly where I walk. Last night I connected what the landlady said about leaving one extension cord in place, and the black tape removed from the brass floor fitting next to the phone jack. I unplug the power strip from the thin extension cord, attach the grey adapter, and stop. I am tired, but my mind is clear in a way I have only recently been experiencing.
I find a lamp. I make sure it’s off and plug it in. Turning it on provides light and nothing else. Jiggle the plug, switch it a few times. It’s still a lamp.
The power strip has the DSL modem, wireless router, my computer, and iPhone charger connected. I trust it to the plug. All the little green lights come on.
Age does have some benefits, but the benefits come from not having been so smart once before. At least we learn and remember.