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Fuse Makers' Favorite

September 28, 1986|LINDA L. BEEMAN | Beeman is a San Francisco free-lance writer.

You're an American woman who plans to travel to Europe sometime soon? You want to learn at least a few phrases in, say Italian, to see you through?

Well, forget buon giorno, grazie , and dov'e la stanza da bagno ? (where is the bathroom?). Here is the one sentence you'll have to have etched in your brain:

Mi dispiace, i miei asciugacapelli ha bruciato i fusi (I'm sorry, my hair dryer has blown the fuses).

I speak as an authority on the subject. On my honeymoon I tackled Europe armed with a hair dryer, converter and five plugs of various shapes and configurations. Like a novice, I imagined these would be more than adequate to meet any situation.

Ireland showed me the folly of my smug preparedness. In one week I had incinerated the electrical systems of three hotels and garnered unlimited ill will from a cadre of maids, maintenance men and desk clerks.

Shopper at Each Stop

In short order I was reduced to buying a new hair dryer for each stop on the itinerary. If I'd only labeled each one with the name of the hotel in which it worked, I could have leased them out to friends for future trips. Alternately, I could have donated them to the respective hotel managements to be lent out to the next fuse blower who passed their way.

As it was, inside of 10 days I was traveling with four hair dryers, one converter and five plugs, and we hadn't yet left the British Isles. At this pace we were clearly going to need a separate suitcase for electrical appliances, a reserve fund for excess baggage charges and an inspired story for customs officials.

One of Italy's better-known watering holes was brought to its knees after a mere three-day stay, and Morocco could easily have been invaded after I took out Tangier with a simple blow-dry.

I've had several years and a number of intervening trips in which to mull these experiences over. I wish I could tell you that the problem's been resolved. It hasn't.

For my next trip I'm banking my chips on a Hammacher-Schlemmer model with a dual voltage converter switch. This sounds pretty good, but I can't help but notice that it comes with only a couple of two-pronged plugs.

It leaves me speculating about what I'm supposed to do when confronted with all those three-pronged outlets I remember.

In the end, two options are available to you: You can wear your hair in a fashion that doesn't require a hair dryer for maintenance, or you can ferret out and buy a battery-operated model.

You won't find the latter easily. As far as I know, it's not on the market. Don't bother applying for the patent, though. I've already done that.

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