Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Doughnuts and sticker shock

My weekend started early. 7:15 Saturday morning, to be exact – which is when I had to be at the MRI place in Beverly Hills.

Perhaps I’ve just got the Simpsons movie on the brain, but an MRI machine looks a lot like a giant doughnut.

I’m serious.

It’s round with a hole in the center, and the patient lies on a stretcher which slides into the center of the doughnut. I didn’t go all the way in, so I sort of felt like a misplaced sprinkle.

We use MRI machines as set dressing sometimes, so although I’ve seen them before, I’ve never heard one before. An MRI makes a really loud buzzing noise that sounds like the airlock alarms in a bad 60’s sci-fi movie, and it keeps buzzing for most of the time that you’re in there. Good thing the tech gave me some earplugs – but if I ever have to have another MRI, I’m bringing a pair of those noise canceling headphones that are given out out on set when they’re using machine guns.

Also, after reading pages and pages of strongly worded warnings about removing all metal from my body to avoid dire yet unspecified consequences, I didn’t go far enough into the machine to even need to take off my pants (metal zipper) or bra (metal underwire).

Talk about anti-climactic.

After my MRI, my main mission of the day was to buy a new hairdryer.

When I was drying my hair Friday night, my hairdryer made an awful grinding noise and smoke came out of the back end. Luckily, I was able to put my years of experience with electrical power to work and quickly deduced that it was somehow fucked up and I would need to replace it. I figured this would take about 10 minutes – waltz into Target, pick out a hairdryer, then go home and watch the cat do battle with the packaging.


The problem is that I live in a building which was constructed in the early 1920’s – a time when folks didn’t have that many electrical things, so 100 amps of power for an entire 2 bedroom house was seen as more than enough.

Note: If you have a house that’s been built in the last 10 or 15 years, you probably have close to 100 amps of power just for your kitchen.

So when I stood in the hair dryer aisle at Target and perused the selection – every single hair dryer there was 1875 watts (or higher – one of them was 1900 watts).

That’s fucking insane. That’s almost two thousand watts*. That eats my entire bathroom circuit, especially if I want to, say, have a light on while I dry my hair.

So I tried the discount beauty emporium next door to Target, and was confronted with the exact same thing – nothing under 1875 watts. I asked the salesperson if she knew of anywhere to buy a lower-wattage hair dryer and she looked at me like I’d lost my mind. “Why? More is better, right?”

Not for me and my old, crappy wiring, it’s not.

After looking around for a couple of hours seeing nothing but dryers I couldn’t use, I finally found a 1200 watt model in a “premium” beauty supply store in nearby Larchmont Village – for the low, low price of 100 bucks.

That’s right – A fucking C-note for a hairdryer.

I must have looked shocked because the saleslady started into some pitch about some mineral in the dryer that would make my hair extra fabulous and then people would love me (or something), but what I was thinking about was that she really had me over a barrel.

I could spent four weeks looking for a dryer on Craig’s list and probably not find one under 1800 watts (which I’m to understand has been the norm for a while), or if I did I’d have to drive out to east bumfuck and wade my way through a sea of ravenous pit bulls only to find out that the owner didn’t read the wattage correctly and I couldn’t use the dryer anyway, or I could just suck it the fuck up and buy the one that was so expensive it was giving me hives just thinking about it.

Turns out, this particular beauty supply store has a 15 day return policy, so if I don’t like the dryer (or can find a cheap one somewhere else within that time frame), I can return it for a full refund.

Since I doubt I’m going to find one (although I’m looking), this thing better get my hair really fucking dry.

* The highest-wattage lamp that we use which can plug into a normal household plug is 2,000 watts. These lamps are notorious for popping breakers and blowing fuses when they’re plugged into the wall on locations.

Most household circuits are two thousand watts each – the exceptions being the bigger 3,000 watt circuits designed for the fridge and the clothes dryer. You can spot appliances that use more than 2,000 watts – they’ll have a funny-looking plug on them that won’t plug into a regular receptacle.

Filed under: life in LA, Non-Work, Off-Topic, rants, , , , , , , , , , , ,

14 Responses

  1. Proto says:

    Wow, poor wiring. And an extention cord to the neighbor’s is out of the question? All we need now is a ‘voltage times amp’ chart to keep up with you…

  2. Dave2 says:

    I find that a box fan works quite well for drying my hair… but, then again, I don’t actually care what my hair looks like once I’m done drying it, so your mileage may vary.

    Have you tried looking for a travel hair dryer? They’re usually smaller and suck less wattage so that they will work in foreign countries…

  3. snarkolepsy says:

    Yeah.. I hate when something that should be simple turns a giant pain in the ass to find.

    Try finding a 12 inch monitor these days. For less than say a trillion dollars. You can find a 24 inch monitor for like 300 bucks, but you can’t find a 12 inch for less than a grand. It used to be a common size a few years ago. They know people only have limited space.. right?

  4. Charli says:

    Sometimes, girl, when I read your blog, I don’t know to laugh or cry. I hope your knees are okay, screw the hair dryer. I, by the way, don’t like to blow dry my hair, too lazy.

  5. Drew says:

    Know how to make a 10,000 watt circuit? Use a penny. I’m guessing you have those old circular screw-in fuses. I lived in a place that had that. I used pennies so I could run the microwave and anything else in my apartment.

  6. GroovyBrent says:

    I’ll second the thought on looking for a travel dryer. I’ll bet that does the trick.

    Dave2 – I had a lighting professor who taught me the power formula in a way that I’ll never forget: The power formula is West Virginia… W VA… W=V*A.

    This was the same professor who taught me that electricity in U.S. theater lighting is racist: The black wire and the white wire are separated by the money (green) wire. And, of course, the white wire is closer to the money than the black wire. I felt vaguely bad about it but I never wired another stage pin wrong after that…

  7. Ladylipstick says:

    Ask and you shall receive! There is a brand called HairArt that makes a 1100 Watt Travel Dryer. It retails for about 20 bucks. If you can’t find it in a real store, it’s at here:

    The model name is “HairArt Travel Hair Dryer Model D3680”

  8. Jim says:

    You might try getting a dual voltage hair dryer. They typically have a high and a low setting, and when you push the voltage selector switch to 220, the high setting is disabled. This implies that on low, fed with 220, it’s drawing the 1800-1900 Watts. So, on low, fed with 110, it’s going to be drawing a quarter of that (half the current, half the voltage). Whether that’s enough heat is another issue. The fan speed will be low too.

    You might also just try rewiring the dual voltage unit, so you use the low heater setting but the fan runs on the full voltage.

    That will get you into the $20 range for the hairdryer, plus,oh, a couple hundred bucks worth of your time to fiddle with it.

  9. Dan says:

    Lemme guess: Larchmmont Beauty supply, right? I live on Larchmont and the only people I see in there are actresses with a series.

    My MRI story: I had a long pony tail many years ago. Went in for my MRI, got into the little paper dress, and the tech said, wait, what’s that in your hair? It was a little elastic thingy with a tiny bit of metal on it. I took it out and handed it to him, dropping it into his hand. But it didn’t go into his hand: it shot 20 feet across the room into the MRI machine. I REALLY wanted to come back with a sack of knives and steel balls.

  10. Molly Mayhem says:


    Are you trying to catch your house on fire? Circuits have an overcurrent protection device for a reason!

  11. principled uncertainty says:

    How about a big fat resistor wired in series with the powercord? That should drop the amps and therefore wattage, yes? You’re an electrical genius, yes?

  12. Ladylipstick says:

    The real question is, does the MRI machine dry hair?

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