Power issue

27 January 2010

There’s a power issue here in South Africa. Not a power struggle. A power outage. It’s blatant and, I assume, quite serious, even though everyone partakes in the one-off snarky comments about state-owned energy utility Eskom’s lack of energy utilities.

I met a girl whose father is the CEO of an energy utility in Zambia. When she mentioned that to a group of us, at least three people joked. “Oh yeah? Could you get him to send some electricity down to Eskom?” I wager she gets that all the time.

There are so many traffic lights (called “robots” here) that aren’t working – to the detriment of swiftly-moving traffic – that the local radio station Jacaranda called the appropriate department of roads and vehicles to report the issues. The DJs broadcast the “on-hold” music recording for 45 minutes while riffing on the lack of energy in SA. Apparently, no one ever answered the call.

There’s probably a SA rapper out there who has worked the energy crisis into his beats…maybe like “I got some never ending fire in my menthol cigs, burning longer than the Eskom lights in my Joburg digs” (if this hasn’t been done yet, I’ll gladly accept royalties).

I found entire websites and blogs devoted to Eskom jokes. Here’s one: “Eskom would like to remind its customers that it is no longer politically correct to talk about a “blackout”… These areas should now be referred to as “previously lit”…”

And another: “In SA, first there was white power, and then black power, but now there’s no power!”

I am really enthralled by South African humor – their readiness to find humor in the social structures of their past and present, and even to ridicule themselves.

Speaking of laughing at ourselves, my brother sent me this link to Louis CK on Conan O’Brien after I was beyond infuriated at my lack of South African internet for 24 hours (let’s just say power isn’t the only issue here in SA…). I certainly needed the levity. I’m trying to live like a South African while I’m here. I’ll aim to laugh it off next time.