Monday, May 10, 2010

The Prince of Darkness

Ok, so if you’re living anywhere in this beautiful and scenic country we call South Africa, you’ll know that over the past few weeks we’ve been the Plascon version of Extreme Black, Wall & All. We’re literally living in the Dark Ages. The light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off by Eskom until further notice. Our National Anthem has been changed from “Nkosi Sikeleli Africa” to “Hello Darkness My Old Friend”.

So just when I thought I could somehow manage with the power outages and schedule some kind of daily routine around the inconvenience of not having electricity for a few hours a day, every day, along came JHB Water to inform me that maintenance work on an underground pipe in my suburb would mean no water for an entire day. It’s not as though I have any other option but to suck it up, make alternative arrangements for the day in question, and hope it would be for just the 24 hours they advised it would take.
So there I am, sitting at my desk, staring at a blank computer screen, not because I have nothing to write, but because I have no electricity once again.
This was the final straw.
I grabbed the phone off it’s cradle, and punched in the number for Eskom’s Customer Relations Hotline. After 5 minutes of Celine Dion on loop, I was torn between stabbing myself in the eye with a blunt spoon, or continue holding till my call was answered. Deciding that the latter option would be less painful, albeit more frustrating, I continued to hold until my call was answered by Ray Watts, customer consultant extraordinaire !

The irony of his name wasn’t lost on me, but I hoped beyond hope that Ray could shed some light on my problem. Not 5 minutes into the call and I realised I needed to go higher up the food chain, as all Ray kept providing as a solution was Patience; a commodity I was quickly running low on stock of. Ray’s idea of an accomplished life obviously didn’t include flying with the eagles, oh no. He was just so happy and complacent to be strutting around with the turkeys. Having demanded to speak to the most senior person at Eskom, the Top Dog so to speak, I was summarily transferred to Mr Satan Dlamini.
I kid you not!
The Head Honcho at Eskom for client queries is none other than Satan Dlamini, Mr Dlamini as he prefers to be called (for obvious reasons). It suddenly brought flashbacks of my final year at school when I sat for my Science exam next to a guy called Matric Exemption. Sure it sounds far fetched, but if you called the Gauteng Department Of Housing and asked for the provisional secretary, you’d be put straight through to my good friend Matric Exemption. Sadly he didn’t pass Matric, that’s why he ended up working in Government.

Moving on.

So I’m on the line with Mr Satan Dlamini, or as I like to call him, The Prince Of Darkness, and I have a list of queries and questions I’m ready to fire off at him, when it suddenly dawns on me that this guy is probably the only person in the whole of Eskom who could put my lights out just for fun, and just because he can! All of a sudden I don’t feel so cocky anymore. Who wants to have their lights turned off permanently by Satan?
Just the thought of it sends shivers down my spine. It’s amazing how the mind can suddenly envisage a life of interrupted electricity and long periods of darkness, and quickly accept that it’s not that bad after all. My mind starts telling me things like “This is actually a blessing. It gives you more time to read and spend with the kids. Maybe walk the dog. Possibly even buy a dog first. Visit friends and family, especially those who have generators.”
As I lay into Mr Dlamini with as much tact as an elephant doing the salsa in high heels, my confidence begins to grow and suddenly he doesn’t loom so large before me anymore. I bounce the fact that I’m a hard working taxpayer who deserves better service than I’m getting before him; I dribble the threat of not paying any more rates and taxes until Eskom sorts this mess out; I sprint for the loop with the fact that my entire business will be relocated to a neighbouring country and Eskom should bend over backward for me as a client; and finally I go for the big Slam Dunk, telling Satan Dlamini that my taxes pay his salary!

The silence on the other end of the line was deafening.
Most people speak of being able to hear a pin drop; I could hear the pin falling through the air before it even hit the ground! It’s so much easier playing Mr Nasty over a telephone. I mean, I’m not the biggest guy in town by any stretch of the imagination. I still get into the Saturday afternoon movie for free on the odd occasion, if you know what I mean. I’ve got to carry my ID with me if I’m planning to go dancing, which says a lot.

So anyways, I figured hiding behind the phone while laying into Satan Dlamini wasn’t such a bad idea. I’d never met him. He didn’t know what I looked like. We could pass each other in the sweet isle at Woolies and not know any better. So when he finally broke the silence, after what seemed like an eternity, it was to ask my name. “Frank Delai” I responded.I certainly wasn’t stupid enough to give him my real name after the abuse I’d just hurled at him. So who better to pretend to be than Frank Delai, my arch nemesis, my eternal enemy, my neighbour.“Oh. Frank Delai you say?” his voice sounding a trifle confused.“Yes, Frank Delai you dimwit. That’s Frank with an F.” My confidence so high and my brazenness so glaring, Lord Mountbatten would think twice about taking me on at that moment.The joy us mere mortals get from momentary eruptions of insanity at government workers and staff of the countries parastatals cannot be measured by any means. It’s like having a free shrink session; more so if you’re calling a toll-free number! If Discovery latched on to how therapeutic these bitching sessions are for the masses, they’d sponsor all our calls to Government Departments and give us rebates the more we complained!
There I was, basking in the glory of my moment, when he calmy asked, “Is this the Frank Delai of 555-2917, 32 Kelvin Heights in Kelvin?”That’s when the pin dropped, and I heard it loud as something really loud making a really loud noise…. You know what I mean.

It was loud!

Don’t you just hate Caller-ID?

So here I am, writing to you from an Internet Café’, afraid to go home, because my lights have been turned off, and somewhere out there, in the shadows, lurks the Prince of Darkness looking for me.