I watched, fascinated, in the local ferretería (hardware store) as Fabian manufactured an extension cord for a woman. Previously he had manufactured a 17-meter ethernet cable for me, unplugging the store’s computer to test it, and it shouldn’t be a surprise to see an extension cord made to order, as opposed to bought off the shelf, given the number of possible outlet and plug combinations in Uruguay.

What did surprise me was the tool Fabian used: a pair of scissors, to split the end of the lamp cord and then strip it for the connections. For many years, I’ve relied on linesman’s pliers and dedicated wire stripper (green, above). Early on in Uruguay, I watched an electrician and subsequently bought what he had (cheap yellow and black pliers), realizing they’re much more practical for household use: lighter and pocketable.

But I’ve never quite mastered the art of stripping wires using the pliers’ built-in cutter, which is how it’s done here (in Mexico as well). Perhaps I will have better luck with the scissors.

While others complain about high prices and lack of consumer choices here, I remain fascinated with how people get things done without the exact tool I thought they would need.