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Eskom, give us another power cut please.


I’ve heard about it, but never experienced it: A power cut.

I’ve seen it on TV, in movies and heard people talk about it here and there. Especially here in SA actually, as it must have happened quite frequently back in 2008 for people to be rather well prepared this time around.

So on Wednesday, 28th of September 2011 at 11am I was busy taking a shower and listening to music, because that’s what I do when I shower: I listen to music. All of the sudden the music stopped. I didn’t really think much of it. When I got out of the bath I saw that the whole computer had switched off and also the screen was no longer on. So I checked the electricity board: All was ok. I checked outside and indeed: The floor lights, which are on all day and night – the environment says thanks – were off. Wow, so the whole building might be out of power I thought.

Anyway, I was meant to go somewhere and a silly power cut would not stop me. But even on the streets there was no electricity. This was not apparent at first, as it was broad daylight and no-one needed any lights, but of course the traffic lights were off. Off. Not a warning signal, completely off. Wow, I was astounded. How far would this power cut reach?

When I arrived I asked the security guards if they knew something and somebody knew indeed something, which was that all of Cape Town was out of electricity. That was when I had my own naturally produced surge of electricity running down my spine: All of Cape Town! And parts of the Southern and Northern Suburbs too. Wow! And the Southern and Northern Suburbs!

This was a power cut the scale of a catastrophe in any Hollywood movie. And I was part of it!

I was really excited by it, as to me this was such a surreal experience: There are no power cuts in Europe. Are there? Definitely not in Germany. Or are there? I for one cannot recall a single one.

At the office a colleague said she also had experienced power cuts in America. She reminded me that there had been quite a big power cut in New York once and I had to laugh: Of course, didn’t they make a movie about it?

We had a lovely chat, with all computers shut down the best thing we could do. Such a bonding moment. Just like many I saw when I’d been on my way: So many people had come out on the street, talking to each other, making new or deepening existing connections. Without electricity, everything had come to a standstill. And it was a beautiful day. I caught myself wishing there’d be another power cut soon, as then I’d be better prepared:

I’d rush out onto the streets and watch how the people emerge from their offices like squirrels coming out of hibernation after a long winter, squinting their eyes against the bright sunshine. How they’d gather together and welcome the day by chatting, laughing, breathing, living. They joy of having no alternative but to do absolutely nothing. No excuse. No bad conscience. No worries. And everybody else is in exactly the same space! No-one can do a thing. So we all might just as well enjoy it as best as we can.

Eskom, give us another power cut please.

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