When I was a kid there was a power outlet next to my bed. I had no need for power strips or outlet multipliers because I only had two devices to plug in: my alarm clock, and a reading lamp that I used to heat up the thermometer whenever I wanted to play sick, just like Elliot did when he wanted to stay home with E.T.
Today, I can’t take two steps in my house without stepping on a power charger or cord. A charger for my Kindle, a charger for my laptop, a charger for my digital camera, a charger for my old digital camera (a Canon ELPH that cost me $500 in 2002 and which now gets the cold shoulder from every current operating system), a charger for the portable external hard drive, a charger for the electrical drill I’m forced to use whenever a blind needs hanging or a neighbor needs a root canal, a charger for the digital camcorder, a charger for the digital speakers, a charger for the steam mop, a charger of unknown chargee—so far behind the buffet that reaching it is not worth the health insurance deductible—and, last but by no means least, a charger of the purest white for my beloved iPhone.
These chargers and power cords congregate in a giant knot by the outlet. My wife dislikes these piles and is always trying to find ways to hide them.
“Mark,” she asks, “what are we doing about that pile of phone chargers in the corner of the living room?”
“What pile? What chargers?”
She pointed to the pile of black wires. If the scene had been out of a movie I probably would have chuckled and then mentally scolded the owner of the house for creating a fire hazard. But I was not in a movie and I didn’t chuckle. This was my life and it wasn’t funny. I explained that we couldn’t just move the wires because they were hooked up to things that could not be moved.
“Now, explain to me again how the modem affects where we can move the phone. We have cell phones. What do we even bother with a land line anyway?”
I told her that the only way that would be possible would be to put something in front of it the entire time, because to move the wires was not reasonably practicable. That would end the discussion.
“Well, smart guy, I guess you’re going to have to stand in front of it the entire time.”
And that’s how I found myself standing in one spot for hours on end, like one of the guards at Buckingham Palace, except instead of a busby on my head there was a bowl of Tostitos in my arms, containing at its center a smaller bowl filled with salsa. Our guests come by me and dip some chips. I was amused at how often they succumbed to the pressure to talk to me. Most of them I did not know me that well, and struggled with the awkwardness. A few gave up.
Then there was the time that I tried to unplug my cell phone and ended up unplugging the Tivo, ruining my wife’s taping of The Real Housewives of New Jersey. “That’s my favorite one,” she said. “I can’t believe I’m going to miss it now.” I suggested she put an ad on Craig’s List for someone who taped that episode.
“It’s not a tape. I’ve told you this like a million times. What are you, stuck in the 80s?”
Eventually, the cords and chargers end up in a closet or in the basement. Deep down I know that the exiled cords and chargers will never be used again, but I am too scared to throw any one of them out. To throw out the charger is to throw out the device itself.
I spend at least 12 hours a week untangling the wires for all of the power cords in the living room. There must be a way to monetize that skill. People should want to line up and pay $5 a head to watch me untangle power cords and cell phone chargers.
I suppose, though, that I should not complain about the mess of chargers when the devices do so much. Instant communication, instant information, instant access, instant video, instant gratification—a small unsightly pile of tangled black plastic wires and domestic strife is a small price to pay for such wonders.
Do you have a knotty pile of cords and chargers in your home? How do you cope?