You’ve just gotten off a flight, a solid 12 hours, 8000 miles and three iffy in-flight meals from your port of departure. You’re tired, you sore, you’re cranky.
You’re also out of juice. You tried to spend some of the flight working on your laptop, and spent the rest engrossed in an marathon session of Angry Birds on your phone. You roll your luggage and what’s left of your dignity to a row of chairs in the airport, scanning the wall for an outlet.
Victory! You spot a telltale panel near the floor a dozen feet away, but then deflate when you get close enough to make out details.
How many prongs does that thing have? Too many. And they’re all pointing the wrong direction.
I’ve found myself in this position more than once (Malaysia, Singapore and Japan), though it’s not for lack of trying to prevent it.
I’ve determined that, for some reason, even when you bring a power adapter for what you think will be the right local fit, invariably the socket will instead be made up of some obscure pattern, recognized only by the locals of that wing of that airport, and no where else in the world. The power your gadgets so desperately crave is right there in the wall, waiting to be consumed, but because of the arrangement of holes on that damn panel, you have no idea where your hotel is, or how to get in touch with your friends in the area.
Let’s call it Snowden’s Law: the only type of connector not included in the Swiss Army Knife multi-adapter device you brought along will be the one you need.
But it could be worse.
In most cases, at least, if you’re able to get your hands on the right adapter, that’s all you need. With the exception of power tools and hair dryers, most electronic devices have their own converters built in these days, so there’s no need to lug around an extra gizmo for each different current type, as well.
Think of how packed your luggage would be, and how many extra-bag fees you’d have to pay as a result.
Communicating in foreign countries tends to work in a similar fashion.
At first it may seem like you’re coming from completely different worlds, and therefore don’t have enough in common with the locals to ever understand their motivations and goals. Once you get past that initial barrier, however – the unfamiliar outlet that’s in the way – the energy (or in this case, ideas) being transferred is the same stuff, even if some electrical grids (cultures) use different currents than others.
This is important to keep in mind, because even though it may seem pointless to try, all it takes to get your devices plugged in and charged is a $2 adapter, and all it takes to get your point of view understood (and to understand the perspectives of others) is the right state of mind.