Theater of the Absurd


These are resettable fuses that my friend MIrcea in Brasov let me take from his apartment in 1990. One is 6.3 amps and the other is 10 amps. These two fuses would cover the entire apartment. During the eighties these two fuse breakers were of sufficient amperage because everyone in Romania was allowed only black and white TVs, which use a lot less electricity than a color set, one forty watt lightbulb per room and a radio or phonograph. Romania did make color TVs, but only for export. I wonder if these minimally amped fuses were a way for the state to limit how much power is consumed or maybe the wiring was just inadequate? Certainly they could never handle something like air conditioners and the refrigerator alone needs 15-20 amps. In the U.S. we typically have one or two 15 amp fuses per room; more so in the kitchen.

But by 1994, MIrcea had a color TV and a VCR. These fuses not only kept tripping, there was also sparks coming out of them.

One other thing I noticed in his apartment building was the stair lights were on timers and you had to be really fast up the stairs before the lights shut off.

MIrcea, like a lot of Romanians, kept a metal milk crate outside the kitchen window during cold months with food supplies in it, because without electricity the fridge was useless.

In Bucharest in 1990, I had just seen the Palace of the People/Parliament with 10(?) year old Silviu and his mother. We were walking in front of an apartment block when I noticed there was water p o u r I n g down from one apartment. I asked them what was happening and they seemed embarrassed. They told me that water availability was sporadic and people would leave their taps open to alert them when they could wash. In this case the residents had forgotten to close the taps before they left the apartment. Everything being made of impervious concrete meant it didn’t matter much.

Published by Eric Sorlien

I am 51 and live in Philadelphia USA. I traveled to Romania about 30 years ago and I remember it still.

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