Electricity is hard / by Susie Lubell

Bauble stands in the Jordan Valley.
Electrical wires made prettier by colored glass, Jordan Valley

Do you remember in junior high and high school, spending hours of your life learning things that you knew were completely unnecessary? Like geometry? Or the Krebs cycle? Or the Middle Ages? Uch. So boring. I find though, that as an adult, and especially as a parent, all that stuff comes in handy. Because my kids ask questions about everything all the effing time and I don't know is usually met with additional, harder questions. So I mostly make up answers that seem within the realm of possibly true based on my foggy learnings as a young person. I'm usually not too far off. And there's always Google.

But there are some things that I never learned and so I really just don't get, made starkly apparent by our move to Israel, and I'm not talking about Middle East politics, although that is another thing I don't get.  I don't get electricity. I mean, I get how to turn on and off switches and that energy gets generated in a number of ways both benign (wind) and nefarious (dinosaur bones). And that it costs a fortune here in Israel and that they never actually check your meter when they bill you; they just make grossly inaccurate assumptions based on past consumption  by the family of eight that rented your house before you.

What I don't get is which of my American bought appliances/devices work in Israel.  And which needs a transformer or just an plug adapter. For instance, my computer doesn't need a transformer, nor my phone. But my wand mixer does and so does my breast pump (which I thankfully don't have to use anymore). Mr. Rosen's guitar amp needs a transformer. But my son's electric toothbrush charging dock does not. And neither does our portable ipod speaker thingy. But our lamps only work when we have Israeli lightbulbs which are different than lightbulbs in America.

So if my son's Oral-B dock works then my guess is that my dust buster would have worked here too! Damn it! I gave that thing away before we came thinking it wouldn't work. Stupid! That is the one thing I need now more than anything since Trouble McFood Hurler is the kind of little boy who leaves a path of destruction wherever he wanders.

And just yesterday I went to plug in my lightbox* and I basically blew the thing up. Bye bye. I've had that thing for almost twenty years and now, because of my ignorance, it's dead. You see I didn't take physics in high school or college. So for me Hertz is a rental car company and Watts is a bad neighborhood in LA. And don't get me started on voltage. If the little pin thing is the right size for the contraption you want to power, it should work, end of story. Unfortunately this is not the case. Meanwhile, Mr. Rosen, the mechanical engineer that he is, finds this both annoying and amusing. Though I feel I should mention that he has blown out two power drills since we've been here. And looked very sexy while doing it.

But my point is this. As my kids begin their long descent into formal schooling I anticipate a lot of moaning about why we need to learn so many seemingly useless things. Take heed, young friends.  Algebra is important. And so is stoichiometry and syntax and Beowolf. And don't skip out on Physics in favor of Anatomy just because the Physics teacher is not as cute as the Anatomy teacher. You will regret this decision, if not while you are dissecting a fetal pig, then when you are bigger and need your hair blower to work in a foreign country.

* a wooden box with a light bulb inside and a glass surface that I use for tracing - like when I finally arrive at a sketch I like but the page is full of erasures, I need to trace it onto a clean piece of watercolor paper so I can paint it. Calligraphers use them to to write in straight lines on envelopes. FYI.