Lessons from load shedding
SO, load shedding hey. What have we done to deserve it? But, this column is not about moaning or recriminations aimed at the beleaguered power utility. We’ve had enough of those. It is what it is.
My topic today is what lessons, both pragmatic and philosophical, load shedding’s discourteous disruptions have taught us. This is what I have learnt. • Take nothing for granted. The light in your life is not guaranteed. Enjoy every moment of it while you have it. And where energy from electricity is concerned, remember that Eskom giveth, and Eskom taketh away. (Cursed be the name of Eskom.) I had to sneak one in ... • Even the best-laid plans can be shattered by circumstances beyond your control. But, that’s not always a bad thing.
Imagine the scene. It’s your husband’s birthday party. You’ve spent months planning it and every i is dotted and t crossed off. You’ve invited all the reprobates you can think of — because the reprobate crowd is always the most fun — and everything’s ready. The supper needs to be warmed up just before you eat, and the deejay is all set up, ready to play. It’s going to be perfect, from the lovely convivial dinner to the wild dancing afterwards.
But, at 8 pm you realise Eskom has had a meltdown and stage two hits. The party is plunged into darkness. The sound of silence blasts through the speakers and I’m not talking about Simon and Garfunkel. It also means your guests can’t eat until at least 10.15 pm. (Will they hang around that long, or will polite thank yous and goodbyes be said when their tummies start rumbling at 8.30 pm?) Your stomach fills with dread. You think your party is ruined. You light the few candles you have to illuminate the way to the loo, but it’s all a bit bleak. People are sitting around talking in stilted tones and your heart sinks into your boots. It’s all ruined.
But, just then, the rotund Roger the Dodger teeters into the garden for a wee. There’s no light and in his inebriated state he doesn’t see the swimming pool.
As the considerable splash pierces the night, everyone stops talking. Necks jerk towards the pool. Roger gurgles in surprise as he is submerged, then gasps and roars with indignation at his unexpected cold dip. As he does so, Dave the Brave stands up, carefully puts down his pretentious craft beer he’s showing off with, and makes a beeline towards the pool. He dive bombs Roger and everyone shrieks with laughter.
Fast-forward five minutes and every- one’s in the pool. And that’s where they stay for most of the night, even when the power comes back on. So while your party is not what you imagined it would be because of the power variable going wrong, it’s still pretty awesome and everyone had a great time. It could happen. • While it’s good to be cautious to avoid being caught out by the bad things life throws at you, don’t invest too much in preparing for this. It may not happen.
Take load shedding for example. How many times have we bust a gut getting prepared for it, only to find the lights didn’t go off for some reason. So, another lesson tied to this is that we should be grateful for small mercies. • Darkness can mean light. Sans electricity, we speak to each other when we would have been online or watching television or being busy doing something in a blaze of light. When it’s dark you keep still. And quiet, except for conversation by candlelight perhaps. It is meaningful. It is real. And it is lovely. • Disruption makes us resilient and we grow from that. Disruption is also a great buzzword nowadays. It seems we should all be saying it a lot more. It embodies creativity. • South Africans have a great sense of resilience and when this is coupled with a sense of humour, we really are indomitable. Take the memes that have sprung up around load shedding. They’re a complete hoot and bolster our spirits. • Nothing lasts forever. Even the bad stuff. And this, we hope, is also true of load shedding. When bad things do end, we shake ourselves off and get on with life. Who hasn’t yelled “Yay!” as the lights came back and they can flick the kettle on?
So, load shedding will come and load shedding will go. I think it’s safe to say that like drought, corruption and potholes, load shedding will happen as part of our mercurial life patterns in South Africa. We can do without them, but hey, we’ll survive anyway. And maybe have learnt something and be stronger for it. • Stephanie Saville is the deputy editor of The Witness.