We blew a fuse on the electric tea kettle. Not sure how I managed that, but I did. Tripped the breaker in the house too. Finding and flipping the breaker back was easy. The fuse, that was another matter.
In Chicago, we lived around the corner from a mini Home Depot. Down the street from that, there was an Ace Hardware store. On Clark, a block in the other direction, Arlington Hardware had closed down, but Lincoln Park Market inherited their stock and sold supplies. Three hardware stores in a three-block radius, there were maybe another 10 inside a half mile. In Chicago, I knew where to buy fuses. But this was London.
Firstly, I had (and still have) no idea what hardware stores are called here. Everything’s got a different name. We all know about lifts and elevators, crisps and chips, biscuits and cookies, but hardware store? That’s a varsity word.
So, Google, please tell me where the hardware stores are. Didn’t really work. Found this: Where the fuck do you buy fuses from? Answer: maybe Tesco … or use a paperclip. Also, “electric tea kettle” = “boiler,” evidently.
So I tried Yelp. Didn’t really work either.
Back to Google with some more general terms. A hit. There was a (possible) store at the other end of London Fields park. We strolled by. Outside, two larger gentlemen bantered incomprehensibly. Inside, a customer was discussing the merits of some product with the man behind the counter. Didn’t understand him either. Inside, the place was the size of a closet. Outside, the sign read: ironmongery, electronics, household goods.
“Want to look around?” Lisa asked. Things were just hung on the walls, ready to be knocked down by the shoulders of bumbling Americans.
“I’m going to just ask,” I said.
Lisa squeezed by me towards the back of the store and found a man sitting in a chair, invisible from our earlier position thanks to the numerous product-clad walls protruding into the closest-sized room. Four employees in this place? Maybe. Sure. Whatever.
I asked him about the fuse, and the man in the chair, surrounded by products he could reach with his arms, turned to grab what I needed. They were located right behind his left shoulder-blade.
“13 amp?” he confirmed, handing me the package.
“Yes,” I took the package, thanked him, and turned to get in line behind the guy at the counter.
A cat appeared next to Lisa and she bent to pet it while I jockeyed for position in line.
“One pound, twenty-five,” the man in the chair surrounded by products he could reach with his arms said. I guess he could also reach the register. I hit up Lisa for the money. We didn’t need to visit the counter.
“I hope that guy works there,” Lisa said as we left.
“Well, we got our fuses.” And we triumphed over adversity in London.