October 5th, 2006

Fishy Circumstances

On changing fuses

The hall nightlight stopped working a month or three ago. Our hall only has light switches on the far ends, so it's handy to have a dark-triggered light to guide the way in dimness, especially for guests.

The first logical step to fixing it was to buy a new light bulb. It didn't make it functional again.
The next logical step was to buy a new fuse.

A new fuse. It's the sort of off-hand repair which Brits talk about, like changing batteries or new light bulbs. I grew up in a non-fuse-changing society. I've never changed a fuse in my life.

Do American appliances have fuses? Surely they must - but where? Or do we use circuit breakers more proactively instead? Our plugs don't have screws in them for easy disassembly. They're hard molded plastic, all of one piece. If a piece of cheap electronics stops working, change the bulb, try a different outlet, but change a fuse? No, we'd wastefully buy a new cheap electronic object.

Getting a new 1 amp fuse was my job, but not an urgent one, so I never made a trip just for it. And let me tell you, there are no 1 amp fuses for sale in Canary Wharf. C. bought a fuse multi-pack before we'd checked what kind we needed; the multi-pack only went down to 2 amps. And so the old fuse languished in my change purse, a regular reminder about which I did nothing.

Yesterday, en route to a meeting about the Latin Project, a vision of wonder appeared before my eyes, kitty-corner from Holborn station. A hardware store! A real one! The man behind the counter got out a many-compartmented plastic box to pick out the right one. ("Like a dice box!", I thought, then mentally added for well-roundedness, "Or button storage.") At long last, I bought my first fuse.

Fuses are as easy to change as lightbulbs or batteries, as I now know. But alas, the new fuse didn't enable a functional nightlight. We may yet be investing in a new piece of cheap electronics instead.