Before leaving for Italy, I double-checked to make sure that the power adaptor (brick) was capable of handling European voltages. Sure enough, the good people at HP have furnished me with a power supply capable of accepting 100-240V at 2A and 50-60Hz, which covers most of the world. What I did not have was the adaptor necessary to convert the North American square, slender prongs into the round ones used in Italy. Italy also has two different sizes: picolo and grande.
No problem. My dad has been overseas quite a bit, and he even has extra ones because not all of his trips have been as well-planned (or packed) as they could have been. So, I borrowed pair of adaptors which, when used appropriately, can get me plugged-in just about anywhere.
There’s only one problem: they’re dual-pronged instead of tri-pronged.
One day maybe a year ago or so, as I was sitting on Brian’s balcony, enjoying the first few warm days of the spring. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t see my own laptop screen… I wasn’t intending to get any great amount of work done that day. Brian has a pair of outlets on the balcony, which was nice, because our laptops can’t stay alive very long with the wireless network in constant use. So, we were plugged-in. Brian happened to be using an extension cord from inside the house and I was using my laptop on one of the external outlets, with one of those “grounded outlets are for suckers” electrical adaptors that simply eliminate the ground line (my laptop has a 3-pronged plug, and the outdoor outlets are dual-pronged).
Occationally, I felt like I was being bitten on the inside of my forearm by a small insect or something. It seemed strange that an insect would be situating itself directly between my arms and my laptop, where I was resting my wrists on the keyboard. Yes, it’s not very good posture, but I’m pretty well-insured.
It seemed to be getting worse. I was scratching my wrists and trying to locate the bug, which I assumed was too small to see. Then, the biting stopped. I concluded that the bug was either dead or gone, and I didn’t care which. So, I continued with my work.
I was about to get up to go inside for something to drink, and I put my stocking feet down on the floor and was biten again, this time, very sharply. I immediately took my feet off the floor and the biting stopped. Eureka!
The mystery was solved: without a ground plug, my laptop was grounding itself through me: a nice briney material connected more directly to natural ground — the concrete, in this case — than anything else. So, I was shocking myself over and over. With my feet off the ground, I was safe from the circuit created by Brian’s outlet, my foot, and the ground.
In a house full of tech gear, this was easy to fix; not so in Italy.
So, I have been to many stores to try, in broken English, or broken Italian, like this morning, to describe what I want. It is very difficult. I can communicate that I’m looking for a 3-pronged adaptor (addatore electrica), but asking for one with a continuous ground line is proving to be nearly impossible. I told one woman this morning that I was being shocked by my computer with my current adaptor. She said she understood, handed me two adaptors that didn’t seem to connect the ground lines, and said “no shock”. So, I said “okay”, and bought one of them, since I already had one that matched the other.
At home, I tested it out and shocked myself. Molto grazie, signorina.
Yesterday, I found a guy who had precicely what I was looking for. It was €8,50, and I told the salesman that I’d look for a better deal. Today, I was back in his shop, and after I asked him for the addatore electrica, he went right for the one on which we had settled the day before. I am currently sitting, barefoot, with my wrists resting on my keyboard, typing this post.
I am not being shocked.