A Coil, 49 Traffic Lights, Kingsway & My Goof CordsWednesday, December 10, 2008
Rosemary is helping out Rebecca with her French science assignments which this month are all about electricity. They are discussing parallel and series circuits. I heard a word I had not heard for years, bobine in French which is very close to the Spanish bobina. As I transversed the city on Kingsway Avenue to Kinsgway and Sperling (49 traffic lights. I counted them and I stopped for at least half of them!) to drop off my broken glasses at All-Canadian Eyeglass Repair, I thought about bobina. This is what went through my memory.
It must have been at least 38 years ago when as a teacher in high school in Mexico City one of my students asked me if I had ever heard of Alice Copper. The whole class laughed at me when I replied, "No, who's she?" I had a very good class and we made a pact that we would try to learn each other's music. Thanks to them I caught on to the Allman Brothers Band and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. I taught them about Dave Brubeck, Gerry Mulligan, Mozart and Bach and took them to an old Mexican baroque church to listen to Vivaldi. I remember that one of the pieces was the C Major Mandolin Concerto and the other was a briskly played Gloria RV-589 (just the way I like it).
I was extremely surprised when my class showed up all dolled up in dresses and suits. I was wearing a brand new brown one I had purchased at a spiffy local store on Paseo de la Reforma called Zapico. It was a terrific suit. Halfway through the concert there was lots of rain and an electrical storm. After one very loud bang all the lights in the church went out. One of the street transformers had been blown out. The conductor, a lugubrious looking Italian, told us the show would go on as soon as the waiters in the restaurant next door brought candles. It was a concert that my students and I will never forget. The flickering of the candles on the gilt baroque altar was magical. We decided to celebrate in a cafe in the Zona Rosa. The Mexico City air was fresh and brisk because of the rain and the electrical storm. I was enjoying the clean air by smoking a pipe! As soon as we entered the cafe I slipped the pipe into my upper jacket pocket. A few minutes we could smell smoke. There was a large hole in my front pocket! Smoke was coming out of it. The usual low oxygen content of Mexico City's altitude had somehow received a bonus of oxygen in the storm. I was depressed. A week later after taking my suit to an inivisible mender it was as good as new. It was then that someone told me that I looked terrible in a brown suit.
At about that time I had this state of the art (then) Acoustic Research amplifier that sported an international circuit. It could be used in either 110 or 220 volt household current. It had circuit breakers for protection. During the weekends my amplifier would turn off randomly. I decided to buy a volt meter to find out why . To my horror the usual 110 voltage was hovering close to 200 during the day. During the week the voltage would sometimes go down to 50. I enquired and I was told that the nearby factories in Tlanepantla would not operate during the weekends so voltage would go up. And during the week they would severely test Mexico City's electrical system.
If you ever travel in Mexico City or anywhere in Mexico you will see lots of mechanical shops that feature the word re-bobinado. This means to re-coil. Electrical motors (even those in car generators) work because a coil of thin copper wire surrounds magnets around a shaft. The action of electricity and magnets causes the shaft to turn. Fluctuating voltage makes coils burn out. Think of blenders, drills, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, etc. It is virtually impossible to have a fridge with its original motor coil for more than a couple of years. You don't throw your appliances, you have their motors re-coiled!
Living in a third world country means that, paradoxically, little is thrown away. It is fixed somehow. This philosophy even translates itself into the consumption of the lowly pig. There are pig snout tacos and pig ear tacos and that list goes on.
There is a bit of that philosophy with the folks that repair my glasses All-Canadian Eyeglass Repair on 6817 Kingsway. I go there cheerfully in spite of those 49 traffic lights.
In a slight detour I would like to point out that I saw my first traffic light in 1952 outside the Retiro train Station in Buenos Aires. It was at the corner of the station and Avenida Libertador General San Matín. The reason I had not noticed it before is that it happened to have been the first semáforo in Buenos Aires.
My glasses besides suffering broken lenses (I always wear glass glasses) have multiple cases of broken patitas(legs) which in English are either called arms or temples. These patitas break because I use goof cords. Why are they called goof cords? My friend Les Wiseman, who taught me the term, says that anybody who uses them looks like one.
My first experience with broken arms by reason of goof cords was some 12 years ago when writer Evelyn Lau, left, visited me. When she was about to leave she asked me to hug her. There was crunch and both arms collapsed. It has been like that since. If I don't use goof cords, I cannot find my glasses and I squint at my computer monitor.
The folks on Kingsway repair my glasses, usually in less than 30 minutes.They never tell me to throw them away or that they are not worth repairing. While I would not like to experience Mexico City's voltage problems in Vancouver I would like to see more shops that promote the repair of stuff instead of converting into it into land fill.