One day, I had received a request for a meeting from a very large architect’s firm in Melbourne’s CBD. A Ms Anne Blakely, an interior designer, wanted to discuss with me the various PVC floorings I had on offer and their best applications. Calling on her somewhat early - I always did that - I asked the receptionist whether I could sit in the waiting room. Feeling comfortable, I had arranged my samples, looked at my notes in my clipboard and then observed the goings on around me.
The soft cushion-chairs were of imitation leather and the carpet on the floor was made of nylon fibre. It was a rather old carpet and I remembered that the early nylon carpets could build up quite a bit of static electricity. The plastic furniture in leather imitation, too, would not help dissipate any static current. I must have had second sight because of what happened next.
When Anne, the interior designer, finally walked through the door I had noticed with alarm that she was expecting a baby any moment. She moved towards me awkwardly, extending her hand. To save her some walking, I shot up from my chair and rushed towards her. As I tried to shake her hand and with our fingertips almost meeting, there was a strong crackling sound and sparks flew . So strong was the static electricity that it really hurt me. Anne, too, forgot her usual bright smile and grimaced for a moment. We exchanged polite introductory words and I pretended nothing happened. Anne, however, seemed to take the electric shock for granted.
As the entire premises were covered with the same nylon carpet, I wondered how Anne’s fellow architects and designers coped with this phenomenon. At first glance I had noticed nothing but then I became aware that whenever somebody had to open a door, he or she quickly touched the door knob to duct the static electricity before grabbing it again and turning the handle. Also, when they approached the metal shelves of their extensive library, they quickly touched the metal before browsing at their leisure. All this behaviour was automatic, I noticed, and only visitors may have become aware of this odd behaviour. Of course, the current generation of nylon carpets do not have these problems any more, but since they were hard wearing, the early carpets can still be seen in some offices.