“Tourist, Rincewind decided, meant ‘idiot’.” – Terry Pratchett
In the days prior to this year’s school spring break, I was chatting with some students and parents from Invermay who were heading over to Europe on an educational excursion. As a former educator who led such tours, I could appreciate their excitement and angst as the day for departure approached. As we talked about the preparations for such a trip, I had to smile as I remembered my first venture abroad with students.
Since most of my students had not travelled extensively, especially outside the continent, I tried to prepare them for what they might encounter and, as much as possible, for all the unexpected twists and turns that travel brings. I particularly cautioned them about what not to do, but I never expected for a moment that I would be the cause of an embarrassing situation.
As all women who travel can appreciate, hair products and appliances are among the most important items packed for any trip. I had purchased a converter kit to ensure that my hair blower and curling iron could be used on our tour through several European countries. The days leading up to leaving were so busy that I didn’t bother to acquaint myself with the new kit, so I just packed the entire thing.
Our group’s first stop was the UK. We were staying at a large, modern hotel near Heathrow airport in London. I was bunking in with a young teacher from New Hampshire, and she seemed less than thrilled to be paired with someone older from rural Saskatchewan, so I tried my best to show that I would not be a detriment to her travel enjoyment nor would I cramp her style.
I was up earlier than usual the next morning to shower which would allow her a chance to sleep in. (Something all young folk seem to appreciate.) Once I was done, she took over the bathroom and I prepared to dry my hair. I arranged all the necessary items which included my hair blower and the converter kit by the large mirror in the center of the room. When I had found what I thought were the appropriate units, I looked for a nearby plug-in. I was confident that I had chosen the correct converters (yes, I said converters, and therein lay the problem). I plugged in the big unit and then a smaller one on top which had the correct symbol for the UK. Thinking I now had the proper voltage I connected my hair blower.
Well, before I could even turn on the hair blower, all the wires turned a bright red, there was a resounding popping sound and a big puff of black smoke rose from the blower. Immediately all the lights in the room went out, including those in the bathroom which now had been plunged into complete darkness because it had no window.
It seems that one wrong little converter had been enough to blow the breaker for the entire floor of that hotel! (I should have thought that a new hotel would have been built to withstand such careless behaviour.) Needless to say, my new roommate was not impressed. Mumbling a few incomprehensible phrases, she finished her shower in the dark while I tried to make my wet hair presentable.
When I arrived downstairs at the front desk, several guests were already lodging complaints with the management. As difficult as it was to explain the situation to hotel staff, it was much more embarrassing to admit to students that I had somehow managed to misuse a simple converter while they had coped just fine.
One of my students aptly summed it up by noting, ”Boy, you sure blew your fuse this time, Mrs. Krawetz!”