The Case of the Mysterious Hotel Television

May 31, 2005

RAY: This puzzler is from my "travel and lodging" series. It came from a fellow named Tom Meyer, a long time ago.

TOM: Is there any chance that Tom is still alive?

RAY: Small. Here it is:

"A few years ago, I was on a business trip and staying in a nice hotel. I got up in the morning and turned on the TV, while I washed and got dressed. When I was ready to go to breakfast, I turned off the TV and went to the hotel's restaurant. After breakfast, I returned to my room and realized that I had time before I had to leave for my meeting. So I grabbed the remote, and tried to turn on the TV. Nothing happened.

"Figuring that the batteries in the remote had gone bad, I walked all the way over to the TV and pressed the power button. Zippo. Realizing that the maid had cleaned my room while I was eating breakfast, I figured she might have hit the plug with the vacuum cleaner, so I checked it. It was plugged in just fine, but just to make sure, I yanked on it and jiggled it. It didn't make any difference.

"The TV didn't say it but I figured, like my computer, it might need to be re-booted. So, I slapped it around a little bit, and then I actually pulled the plug out. I waited 20, 30 seconds, plugged it back in, and that didn't help. In desperation, I called the front desk, and they sent-- are you ready for this-- the house electrician to check on my TV.

"He goes around the back of the TV and he's looking at things. I don't know what he's doing. He asks me to turn on the lamp next to the TV.

"It works. He says, 'I see your problem.' And he fixes it without using any tools."

What did he do?
TOM: You know I think I had the same problem in my office.

RAY: I remember when you moved into your office, you had a receptacle that didn't work. You were ready to move out.

TOM: I was ready to call the electrician because the bottom half of the receptacle worked, but the top half didn't.

RAY: Which was exactly what the case was here. The reason it didn't work is because there's a switch on the wall that controls that part of this duplex socket.

When the outlet didn't work, the maid unplugged the TV and plugged in the vacuum. She vacuumed the floor, and then she took the two cords which were now unplugged, and before leaving she plugged them back in-- except she did it backwards.

So, in order for the TV to have worked it would have required turning on the switch, which is by the door, and which is supposed to light the desk lamp. Of course, the reason the lamp lit up is that it was plugged into the part of the outlet that's always on. Pretty good uh? Do we have a winner?

TOM: We certainly do. The winner is Irene Wilk from Plainfield, Connecticut. And for having her answer selected at random from among all the correct answers that we got, Irene is going to get a 26-dollar gift certificate to the Shameless Commerce Division of, where she can pick up a Father's Day gift. We have a Car Talk tie, did you know that?

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