It is a Wednesday morning. The 12-hours-on, 12-hours-off light schedule has apparently been escalated to 12 on, 24 off. Not for the first time, I am caught completely flat footed. The children’s uniforms are not ironed.
It is also one of those mornings when the missus has had to leave very early for lecture. Had she been around, she would probably have warned me and worked some magic. I look left and right, totally bereft of ideas. Hopefully, the lights will come on at 6.am, leaving me just enough time to leave by 6.30a.m .at the latest if we are to thrive in the Spintex traffic and arrive at school on time.
Waiting for electricity
It is 6.30a.m. The lights are still not on. The children are very worried they will be late. There they stand, adorned with singlet, panties and socks. With this prolonged outage, the inverter, as back-up power supply, has also given up. In any case, its batteries are not sufficiently capacitated to power the iron. At 6.5.0am, I start thinking… again.
We have been here before, I remember. I ask for the old iron. I light the gas stove and strategically position the iron on one of the burners. Heating through direct fire-to-fire contact is on course. I should have started thinking earlier. Better circumstances have robbed me of critical survival skills, I surmise. In 10 minutes, all the children’s clothes are hurriedly pressed. In my case, my faithful, caring and long-serving smock comes to my rescue. And not for the first time too. Always ready to go, the faithful smock needs no ironing.
Needless to say, we arrive in school after 8a.m. We are late. The school gates are locked. To get them in, I am told by security to get the express permission of the headmistress. I walk over to tell a long story. There is always a story. As I do this, children stand nervously outside the gate, terrified of the consequences of late arrival. “We don’t like to be late. When we are late, we feel very uncomfortable in our stomach!” In due course, they are let in and I soldier on with the rest of my day.
Managing with alternative power
It is 4a.m. at dawn. The inverter is beeping, giving advanced warning signals that its battery are fast draining. Not one to countenance darkness, the missus issues rapid instructions: no fans on, no unnecessary lights on etc. I float in the darkness during my favourite 2a.m. routine. With fans off, air hot, and sliding windows shut for fear of mosquitoes, I am barricaded and my allergies kick in. I sneeze, I itch, I cough and I do not breathe well.
Unable to survive any longer, I step out to the main compound. I pace up and down to clear my lungs. Other times, I get into the car and turn on the ignition. I also switch on the air-conditioning. I relax. I sleep. While doing so, I plug in my dead mobile telephone to charge. The battery is dead. The battery is always either dead or dying. And I cannot manage two telephones. My last power pack has collapsed. Some contact problem. The missus accuses me of not taking good care of my gadgets.
ECG loses control?
In the days when the missus was living under the illusion that we somehow had control over the system, she would call the local office of the Electricity Company of Ghana and really really grill them: why is it off, when should we expect it back, could we have advanced warning etc? If all the technical mumbo jumbo failed and the time slipped by without promises being fulfilled, she would call back. Simply looking at her totally exhausted me. I swore never to call any ECG office.
It is a Friday. The lights have been on for too long. Two days straight I calculate. What is wrong? Why are we having so much light in this house? I accost the missus. She knows these things. Keeping track of that unreliable load-shedding timetable is too much stress for me.
“Aren’t the lights supposed to be off?” I ask her. She looks at me in a funny way, unsure whether to laugh or cry: sane or bananas, I think she wonders.
It is late afternoon. More officers than normal are seen leaving the office. The lights are off and the wireless Internet connection has given up. The discomfort is palpable. Productivity is low, we can see. Even without conducting a survey!
And so, Mr President on thursday said he would solve the problem and not simply manage it? I see. Time is running out!