Thursday, January 31, 2008

Load Shedding Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry.

I like load-shedding. For one thing, load shedding means never having to say you’re sorry. Or was that love? I forget. But just think of the many, many things you can blame on load shedding. You’ve missed an important deadline for an article? No problem. Just tell the boss: “I’m sorry I couldn’t finish it because the computer ate it during load shedding.” You forgot an important appointment? Don’t worry. Tell your doctor, accountant, bank manager: “I simply couldn’t get there. The traffic snarls in the centre of town were impassable. None of the traffic lights were working because of load shedding” And there’s more. If you haven’t got your act together shopping for the days’ groceries and there’s nothing decent for supper, tell the starving masses: “I’m sorry but the moment I walked into the supermarket, everything went black. I couldn’t buy a thing.” Try not to let anyone find out about Raymond Ackerman’s devious plan to keep counters ticking over with treacherous generators in spite of Eskom’s best efforts. Honestly. Where’s his community spirit?

But seriously, I really do like these enforced electricity free moments. The sudden silence descending on a household of teenagers caused only by Eskom having its daily nap is worthy of a column in itself. It’s the only time in our house when the hum of computers and the blare of televisions, CD players and stereos are reduced to nothing less than absolutely blissful quiet. So don’t fret if you can’t keep doing your work on the computer when the lights go out. I’ve discovered a rare antique device which is quite good at keeping one’s thoughts flowing. It’s called a pen and it works quite well once you get used to it. And it operates by candle-light too.

Honestly, I think Eskom is doing us all a favour. In this age of computer addiction where many hours are wasted answering boring emails or pondering one’s next move on Scrabulous (a habit I must admit to, I’m afraid) electricity-less days allow us to fall back on our own resources. Boiling a kettle over a gas bottle can’t help but bring back memories of gentler times, when people went camping with their friends and families. Or did that happen only in Famous Five novels? There are many more benefits to an unlit life. Bathing by candle light, for example, has its own rewards. For one thing, you can’t see your less than perfect reflection in the mirror anymore. And a mere flick of a match introduces an instant romantic mood. Meals as simple as bread and cheese are enhanced with a golden glow when lit by the flickering flame of a candle. Bread and cheese is usually the only thing on the menu due to the lack of cooking facilities and the aforementioned power cuts in supermarkets. Allegedly. There are one or two drawbacks to life under the flickering flames, though. When the lights do eventually come back on there are perhaps a few too many creative patterns made by black smoke and candle wax on every surface in the house. But you get my general drift.

So I think we should stop moaning about the power outages and begin to enjoy the fruits of this unusual opportunity to step out of the rat race and live life more peacefully. The next time the lights go out, don’t get angry and call the minister of Energy and Lack of Resources rude names. Slow down and listen to the sound of the birds twittering in the trees, the hoot of the neighbourhood owl, and the smack of heavy metal against heavy metal as trucks veer into one another at robot-less intersections. Will anyone ever get the hang of the four way stop?

Another big bonus is that the many, many governmental voices on radio and television telling us to have an early night so that we can become cleverer are also silenced. Briefly. Perhaps they should have had an early night or two themselves.

I do hope my Pollyanna approach doesn’t make you want to electrocute me in fury. If it does, well, sorry for you. It’s just about time for my load shedding.

First published in The Witness, 27 February, 2008.

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