23 March 2007

Hardware specifications

One of the perennial signs of not-in-Kansas-anymore (literally!) is the little widgets you deal with on a daily basis. I've already discussed the marvels of the bathroom some time ago, although I failed to mention the mini- or maxiflush option the toilets here offer, something that delighted my younger brother when he visited.

There's also all manner of house and office hardware that make for subtle shifts in all those little habits in life. The outlets here, for example, are large, round and deep set, with the grounding on the side instead of the little sad-faced third hole like American plugs. They're often slightly diagonally set on power strips, which is kind of clever if you have all those massive cell-phone-charger plugs that never line up well, but means I'm often fumbling madly trying to line everything up just so.

Switches too are all kinds of different. First of all, the love of dimmers has hit hard here, and many of the switches are a push-on-then-twist-for-romantic-dimness. Those that aren't are opposite style to me, where pressing down means on and up means off. Figure that one out in the dark when you're tired and forgot where you live, whydontcha?

And then we have doors and windows, two bastions of interesting hardware. I'm from doorknob-land and I have landed directly in a handle territory, which has created all kinds of hilarity when I'm walking around my house with a wide-sleeved bathrobe. I keep getting stuck on the handles, especially, for some reason, in the kitchen. In the most complex permutations, there are some doors that have a lock that can only be operated if you rotate the handle upwards and then turn the lock. This still is a confounder for me. The windows are also new, since I grew up with windows that slide up and down, sometimes with rope-suspended weights you could hear rattling in the frames to keep the lower part up in the summer. The closest I got to hardwared windows was in college when the leaded glass panes of my senior dorm room opened outwards like a proper Romeo-wherefore-art-thou-Romeo window should. Then I get here and it's a majestic trio of locks and a latch that also holds the window ajar or fully open even in a 60mph breeze (like last night's non-stop wailing wind). Cool stuff once you figure out how to work it.

Of course these days I am not thinking about this stuff so much anymore, but every now and then I'll be absent-mindedly washing the dishes or something, and I'll look over to the right at the outlet on the kitchen counter and think "oh yeah, I'm living in Iceland. Weird stuff, this is". And then I go back to swabbing the soup pot in the sulphurous hot water.


Hulles said...

When I checked into my hotel in Reykjavik on (sadly) my only trip there I think it took me about two hours to find the light switch. I knew the room had to have one but I couldn't find it for the life of me.

Fun post.

Visionary & Medium Extraordinaire said...

have you noticed that doors in Iceland open inwards, where as in America they open outwards. This took me ages to learn and remember. Public bathrooms in America to me are a little primitive because even though there are stalls, you can see your neighbours feet. You can even hear if they're peeing or pooping. Back home if I remember correctly there aren't many of those kind of public bathrooms. Usually you'll get much more privacy.
I don't want to hear other people do #2, when I'm doing #1

Professor Batty said...

... I found the existence of elevated thresholds at the door of my rooms- hotel, guesthouse, or apartment- intriguing, I've heard they are common throughout Scandinavia- something to do with mopping perhaps?

ECS said...

hulles: I've heard similar tales of "where-is-the-flush-button-on-the-toilets" in some of the places where it's a big silver square on the wall. You're not alone.

SB: I think the reason they're like that is for safety purposes, so if the door gets stuck you can get out. It's not so you have to share your personal time with other people :)

Batty: this is something that others visiting have complained about but to be honest I never noticed it. Perhaps old New England houses are also thresholdy in a similar fashion? I've not had toe-stubbing problems.

And another story I remembered I wanted to add to the list of hardware oddities is that the foreigners are not the only ones who are confused by the local technology. In the building where I work, there is a sticker above the elevator buttons that instruct which one to press if you want to go up, and which to press if you want to go down. The buttons are big arrows pointing up or down, and yet still require instructions. Mysterious.