Silence is a telltale sign that a neighbourhood has power. Not absolute quiet but everyday sounds (i.e. normal noise associated with people and everyday life) are muted. The silence of the generators (sounds like a movie title) is proof that the electricity power authority is actually doing their job…generation and distribution to the consumers! There’s nothing truer than the adage that, ‘silence is golden’, it’s easy on everyone and the tranquillity it bequeaths is without price.
When consumers are getting value from their electricity bills you hardly see people or hear them either. Everyone stays indoors either listening to music, watching a movie or television, or just generally ‘maintaining’. Music maybe heard occasionally (from those that love it LOUD) and voices too but the atmosphere that pervades is one of calm.
Neighbours often don’t see other for days (crazy schedules of living and working in a busy city) but if the shadows in front of a lit window are anything to go by, then the person next door is alive and kicking. Indoor chores and activities tend to be the primary focus when power is available. Everywhere is deserted and the murmur of voices on passing a door another clue that someone’s inside.
On the other hand, once an outage occurs the general inclination is either to flee or switch on the generator. For individuals that have regimented times for its use, they may find errands that take them out pending the allotted time. For others that can’t do without electricity, the only option is the generator.
Some places come alive with people, movement and the clatter, bang and hums of generators once blackness descends. Clusters develop and tales are swapped of daily events or strange occurrences. The usual debates or discussions about government, parastatals and other institutions could be another topic. The palpable disappointment that another outage has occurred is left unsaid but life goes on. On the other hand the sheer delight that rents the air i.e. UP NEPA when an outage ends is pathetic. In the 21st century we still inhabit the dark ages and there seems to be no end in sight.
Some districts find the concept of public power supply alien and only get to experience it for a few minutes, with these episodes few and far between. The double jeopardy of paying electricity bills (or buying the pre-paid cards) and the expense incurred from petrol or diesel purchase is something citizens have learnt to take in their stride. This isn’t ideal but when the ideal is a myth, reality is the only consequence.
We have all learned to cope (one way or the other) with the vagaries of the ‘power supply’ in our localities. Whenever the national power authority bestows electricity we all have various choices to make in how best we use this gift. On the other hand this choice is often wrenched out of our hands and the cruel joke of another outage quietly takes over. Sometimes the only response becomes the roar of generators…a sound that has come to represent ‘normal’ in the current scheme of things.