Saturday, October 20, 2012

Lights out

As much as I love my apartment, with it being small and cozy and high ceilings, those high ceilings come with a certain cost. Emotional cost. The beautiful windows and almost 3 meter ceilings also means that, like most apartments on Södermalm, the block was built in the 1920s. Now, it is well-kept and the kitchen is of course renovated (in fact less than 3 years ago) but one thing they have not exchanged is the power box.

Zoe and I came home one late afternoon last week and I was in dire need of a coffee so I turned on the espresso maker (my department for some reason tends to run out of milk at the most annoying times like the day of my 8am class and I cannot drink coffee without milk) and I was about to heat up leftover lasagna for early dinner. Zoe wanted to watch a bit of cartoons so I put my laptop in the charger and turned on a 30s Donald Duck episode. Then everything went PUF and the apartment went dark (yes, it is very dark outside at 5:30pm here now). Zoe started screaming, 'oh no, oh no' and I started wondering what kind of electricity system we had here, because I have lived with a range of types through my time as an international dweller. Then I remembered that it was the old system with fuses and that a fuse had probably blown. I had to use Zoe's high chair to reach the fuse box and as I looked on the shelf below I realized what I had suspected: The owner had not left me with any spare fuses. I tried desperately to calm Zoe but looking at the clock it was now close to 6, the time most stores apart from grocery stores close. I took Zoe with me and started ringing doorbells at my neighbors. Nobody home. I found one guy above me who nicely enough came in, looked and seemed more confused than me. "But we modernized" he said and recommended me to go down and buy a new fuse. We got our shoes back on and ventured down. Before I left, I cleverly took a picture of the fusebox so I knew what I was looking for. I grew up with this type of system so it couldn't be that difficult. I put Zoe on my back in the Beco, since her stroller was already parked in the basement one flight of stairs below and I did not have the strength to pull it up again. She was overly joyed to be in the 'back pack' as she calls it.

At the grocery store no fuses looked like the ones in my picture. It didn't help that they were named something different than what I had talked to the upstairs neighbor about. Swedish electricity terminology was not something that came easy to me. I concluded that we needed to go to a hardware store the next day. By now we were hungry and when I asked if we should go for pizza on the way home (there would certainly be no cooking at home that evening) Zoe said "No, sushi!", so we found a sushi bar in the big food hall and had dinner. Zoe was still uncomfortable, probably picking up on my concern to spend the night without power and keep asking if there would be light at home. She asked if a friend of mine could come fix it, which I was surprised about; said friend did not usually help out at home but he is one of Zoe's favorite people.

As we were finishing the salmon nigiri, I realized something that I couldn't believe I hadn't thought about at first: there were three fuses in the fuse box and it seemed as only one had died. Not that I knew because it seemed to be tied to everything in the apartment (hence probably the problem with over-heating in the first place), but the bathroom light had still been on. We walked home and I eagerly went up on Zoe's chair and switched the fuses around. Now I noticed that the inside of the fuses actually resembled the ones available in the grocery store. I cursed a bit. I should have known that, I now remembered exactly how they look from my childhood where my mom would proficiently exchange them regularly. Okay, I turned the main switch on and WEOU WEOU WEOU WEOU, turned it quickly off again, climbing down to comfort a very scared and now loudly crying toddler. The fire alarm was apparently attached to the final fuse. After comforting Zoe I did one attempt more, which Zoe was not happy about, she kept repeating as she curled up in the couch "scary, scary, scary". When the sound went off again I gave up. I'll fix this tomorrow I told Zoe and we got out tea candles and the small reading light she had gotten from earlier mentioned friend. She said she wanted to sleep and I let her fall asleep in my bed, in my arms.

The next day we had to wait getting up until it got a bit brighter but then we hurried to daycare. She was really clingy and I told the teachers what had happened. I rushed back, past a grocery store and home to fix the problem. As I managed to keep the power on for slightly longer while the alarm was going, I realized that it was not the fire alarm but the gas alarm that was plugged into the wall above the fridge. It had probably broken in the process and was sounding like most broken alarms do. I unplugged it and changed the fuse and electricity was restored within five minutes. All I had needed was 5 minutes Zoe-free time, something that was not an option the night before. It annoyed me slightly that I hadn't thought about taking the fuse out and bringing it to the grocery store in the first place but there were so many ifs and buts and it made me remember how much longer things take and how much of my energy and brain I spend on my child when with her. Zoe could definitely have been without this experience but I made sure to explain and show things to her when we got home later that day. I took a 'work at home' day and worked from a cafe to get beyond the whole thing. And I made sure to leave three extra fuses in the back of the top kitchen drawer, the very same place my mom kept ours.

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