Power to the People!
Where to Grab Free Electricity for Your Phone or Laptop—but Not Your Damn Mini Fridge, Okay?
You've been there: battery light flashing red on your cell phone or laptop, miles from home, desperately searching for an electrical outlet to mooch power from.
We're here to help.
Seattle, it turns out, has quite a few publicly accessible power outlets where you can grab a little electricity in a pinch. So we put out a call to readers of Slog, The Stranger's blog, to help us catalog the best public power outlets in the city.
Before you cry foul, consider: Phones and laptops don't cost very much to gas up—Popular Mechanics put the monthly cost of charging up the average smartphone at 7 cents—and you're paying for most of this free power anyway via your tax dollars. There are 350 outlets in city parks alone. Seattle Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Dewey Potter says she doesn't see much of a problem in people using, say, the electrical outlet that's randomly halfway up a light pole near the Cal Anderson Park basketball courts for phone-charging purposes. "I don't think those are big users of power," she said.
So here are a few of the best early suggestions, according to our readers:
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park: "If you check the ends of the big concrete bermy things, where people sit, you can find some outdoor receptacles and fire up your laptop," says power tipper Matt Fikse about the park at the intersection of South Walker Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way South.
Fifth Avenue, Between Pine Street and Olive Way: Right there on the side of Nordstrom is a power outlet, which was recently spotted with not just one but two cell phones charging at the same time.
Sixth Avenue, Between Columbia Street and Cherry Street: Look for the janky outlet that appears out of nowhere in one of the marble slabs at the base of the Municipal Tower.
The Planters Near the Getty Building: In Fremont, according to another power tipper, outlets can be found along 34th Street, east and west of Fremont Avenue, affixed to planters near the offices of Getty Images.
But you can't plug in just anything.
Speaking for the parks department's outlets, Potter draws a line at powering "personal appliances and such"—like, say, the mini fridge and television set she once observed hooked up to a public power outlet in Woodland Park. That, unfortunately, got to be part of the problem with the Cal Anderson outlet, which had been observed powering a tattoo gun, among other things, and recently had to be shut down. (Before you yell at us for ruining everything: It was scheduled for a shutdown well before our Power to the People! project began.)
Plenty of others remain, though, and we want to chart them with your assistance.
Help out your fellow modern humans: Send your tips on free public power outlets to email@example.com. Be sure to include a picture and note the exact location! We'll add them to the Google map we're running over at thestranger.com/news.