June 23, 2011

The Relativity Theory of Power Interruptions

I shared a good chuckle with a friend today.

She told me that her husband, who is working in Germany at the moment, was listening to the radio while driving through Berlin, and the story of the day was that at 2:00 tomorrow the power in such and such area would be turned off for two and a half minutes. Apparently, this warning had been going out for several weeks, and the announcer was very concerned that people would take heed, because the last time the power had been turned off for repairs was in 1955 (I'm not kidding).

This is where, as a South African, you will find this story extremely funny.

I remember when my parents were visiting from Germany shortly after Zax's birth in September 1996. Hurricane Fran had just struck Raleigh, and we were without power for an entire week. Thank goodness for breast milk is all I can say. But anyway, my parents, who were supposed to help with the new baby, left after just a day, saying that our life without power was just too cumbersome. Even during World War II in Germany, they said, when entire cities were bombed to smithereens, their electricity was always back within a few hours.

But you know what? After I was done laughing about the Berlin power cut story, I reflected on it, and realized this: Instead of feeling jealous of their good luck of living in a place where everything works like clockwork, I felt sorry for them. I imagined worried elderly people sitting in their homes feverishly awaiting the power interruption and planning their day around it, or, God forbid, the ones who didn't get the radio message spending two and a half very frantic minutes trying to figure out what in the world was wrong. I wanted to shout out to them: "RELAX, it's not a big deal! Life is too short to worry! You can live without power for hours! We do it all the time here in South Africa! (And it's not even announced ahead of time!)"

It's all relative, isn't it? Which is why being an expat is such a wonderful experience. It puts everything in perspective.

3 comments :

cat said...

I have to laugh at this because frankly, the Germans are sa anal about everything. I rememebr getting on a train in Germany at 5 minutes before 2 and then being on the wrong train because the right one cme at exactly 2. (not a minute before or after)

Sine said...

Now that's a funny story too!

W. A. Jeffrey said...

I think I would still prefer SA to have the quality of electricity that Germany or the USA has.

Apparently they announce the load shedding schedule ahead of time nowadays but surprise, surprise... the power is turned off at times different than those announced with phony apologies to follow.