Les­sons from load shed­ding

Weekend Witness - - Opinion - MEAN­WHILE ... Stephanie Sav­ille

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.

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