Bring back the blackouts

2015-03-10 14:00

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What the hell happened to load shedding? I was just getting used to it. Gosh, I was even starting to enjoy it.

When perpetual load shedding began a couple of months ago, it was as if the sky had fallen on our heads. Well, it would have been like that if we’d had enough light to be able to see the sky falling on our heads. Instead, we could only feel its whump on impact because those official load-shedding schedules were always wrong and were either made up by a special needs employee or a registered sociopath.

Office life suddenly presented new challenges way beyond hoping someone would bring birthday cake.

As screens blinked off and we entered the internet dead zone, a collective groan would go up and there was always some idiot who would say: “Load shedding, guys!”

Soon, the effects of the air-con shutting down would kick in and the office would start to feel as if we’d been transferred to Amanzimtoti. Mopping the sweat off our keyboards and taking shallow breaths, we’d stagger towards the water cooler where there was no relief – because it wasn’t a cooler any more. This was the small stuff.

Being stuck in the Ladies when the lights went out was the real test of courage. The dim, fizzing generator lights that made the office look like a North Korean interrogation centre didn’t stretch to the Ladies. So if you were caught in there in the pitch dark with your pants down, it took blind faith and guts to get out.

Bonus points if you could find the basin – usually by banging into it with your knees – to wash your hands. I stopped taking the lifts altogether because it would have been my worst nightmare to get stuck in one.

I also stopped using the lifts in my apartment block. Which may not seem like a great sacrifice, as we live on the first floor, but it’s two floors up from the basement parking that, like the Ladies at work, would be plunged into total darkness. It could take me five minutes to stumble out of there, kind of hoping a car with headlights would arrive at the same time as kind of hoping it wouldn’t run me over.

Like a soldier returning from war, now that load shedding is (apparently) over, I miss it. The risks we took, the camaraderie, the campfires in the kitchen that we made from old fruit boxes to cook supper?…

I recall with misty fondness lighting dozens of candles as night drew its warm cloak around us, and especially the flattering glow cast by their cheery flame, which made my jawline look tighter.

Instead of watching Modern Family on TV, we would act it out; practising Phil Dunphy magic tricks with household appliances or stuffing balloons down our shirts and pretending to be Gloria. It was good family fun.

The final scores of TV football matches had to be guessed. We’d award the person who came closest to the correct answer a box of Lion matches or, on one unforgettable occasion, a string of LED fairy lights. Memories are made of this.

I feel nostalgic for those days when we had nothing better to do than open another bottle of wine because we couldn’t boil water in the kettle and how we would have riveting conversations about whether we were in Stage 2 or Stage 3 and sing drinking songs before deciding it was time for bed because we’d run out of things to do by 8.30pm.

And so we would awake the next morning feeling refreshed and thankful for the sunlight streaming into our rooms.

There was always a perfect excuse for missing a boring meeting or not pitching for a date: “Sorry, the traffic was murder.” There was always a good reason to not reply to tedious emails. The WhatsAppers would invariably use up their battery life before the rest of us, so they went quickly and quietly into the dark. Instagram was a loser’s game. The phone never rang.

Life might never be the same again. But with Eskom at the switch, hope springs.

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