My late father firmly believed in using the expertise of others. That approach has stood me in good stead, never having done a single bit of DIY in my life. What can I usefully do to a geyser, or a washing machine that a plumber can’t do better? Plus, I’m more comfortable with my trousers hoicked higher when I bend over, if you get my drift.
In addition, I have perfected the art of the sage nod of acceptance when a suggestion is made, however ridiculous. Mostly practised on the plumber when he tells me I need new reinforced copper side-flanges costing the GDP of Swaziland and my entire neighbourhood will be flooded unless I order a brace of them.
So, when former adman and now chair of Eskom Mpho Makwana offered us his expertise and suggested we start to celebrate lower stages of load shedding, who was I — in fact, who are we all — not to fully comply?
He’s the chairman of the board after all and one of the attributes of this exalted position, I’m told by any number of management consultants, is the ability to influence others without dominating.
This wasn’t an exhortation then; it was a gentle prod, a polite nudge, if you will. He’s a bespectacled, urbane, consensus-seeking man. I would therefore nod, acquiesce and celebrate as he wished.
By the way, I think we need more advertising people in government. As the old cliché goes, these are people schooled in selling the sizzle and not the steak and who make you buy things you don’t want or need.
You tell me one industry that can generate consumer delirium over the purchase of discount extra-absorbent handmade hemp tampons or new and improved insect repellent, and expect to be paid handsomely for the work and win awards.
Makwana was only doing what all advertising people do instinctively — making the most of a bad situation.
Coming down from Stage 6 load shedding to Stage 3 is much like taking a strong dose of Valerian root, a plant Greek physicians realised had calming effects way back in 460 BC.
As my ESP app registered the new lower level of power misery, a feeling of self-induced wellbeing and joy permeated the body beginning at the toes and working its way upwards, I smiled out of context at the plumber and stood by to be Makwana-ed.
As my television died with a receding white supernova on the screen and I urged my family to begin a celebratory singalong beginning with the Debby Boone classic You Light Up My Life. It was not to be. The managing partner snarled at me as she tried to coax her Checkers Sixty60 app to open with 1% battery life left. This was going to be harder than I thought.
But we should be happy I cried; we can do this. Listen to the Chairman. Stage 3, I told them, only increases the frequency of Stage 2 by 50%, which means we’ll be scheduled for load shedding only nine times over a four-day period for two hours at a time, or nine times over an eight-day period for four hours at a time.
As I was getting to the difference between Stage 3 and Stage 6, my monologue of joy was interrupted by a howling from the next-door neighbour. Another Makwana joy-disciple I thought, good on you.
In fact, it turned out he was howling with rage as his 500,000-watt generator, enough to power Tshwane through many more months of mayoral selection meetings, had run out of diesel. And his Visa card was maxed out.
We had another hour and 45 minutes left of this hell, but I was still determined to follow the chairman’s orders.
What do South Africans do when they want to celebrate? Open the bar. Even if it was 8am. It was happy hour somewhere in the world and I was going to be part of it. Even if it killed me. Which it almost did, as fumbling around in the room under the stairs for a cheap Sauvignon Blanc, my cranium collided with an empty gas cylinder, whose contribution to the fight against load shedding had long been forgotten as it waited silently for filling that would never happen.
Bleeding profusely, I cried for the managing partner to bring my trusty Imalent MS18, which has a maximum output of 100,000 lumens that can reach up to 1.3km and is available at Takealot at just over R15,000.
Throwing it at me, in a searing rage of frustration, it glanced off my head, causing an indentation the size of a small pothole in an ANC-run town in the Free State.
Celebrating Stage 3 was just too hard.
Chair, please can we go back to all being pissed off all the time; it makes one so much happier. DM