A funny thing happened the other weekend. The husband and I were lolling around the apartment, doing nothing in particular – when the power went off. We looked at each other and waited for it to surge back on, but it didn’t happen. And although we didn’t really have any plans anyway, it unnerved us. Because – not only did the television not work, but neither did the internet. My laptop battery was almost dead. There was no cooking to occupy me – all the appliances in our place are electric, plus it probably wasn’t a good idea to heat up the house unnecessarily with all the AC’s down.
To further complicate matters, we then came to the realization that the water was off too. Because we live at the top of the hill, water has to be pumped up to us – and the pumps are operated by – you guessed it – electricity. Did I even dare to spend the afternoon outside or at the gym, sweat collecting on my body, when who knew when I would be able to properly rinse myself afterwards? When it became evident that the power wasn’t going to come back soon I did just that – all the while quietly convinced that it wouldn’t stay off for a huuuggeee amount of time. First – I went for a swim. Covered in chlorine, I then went for a walk and returned smelly and sticky at 5pm. Yet still, there was no power.
It’s circumstances such as these that makes one realize just how much it is these days that we rely on technology. Particularly living on the island. Key, is the internet, that in many ways is our lifeline – our one connection to the outside world. The connection that reassures family and friends that we’re okay, we’re alive, it’s business as usual. Earlier in the week, I had planned to skype my friend over in LA. As normal, we had made a time and day to login and chat. But, without the internet, without even a phone line there was no way for me to get in touch with her, to say, sorry love, don’t sit around waiting for me, there’s a problem. Not even a way to confirm, don’t worry, I’m not sick/dead/kidnapped/in a disaster zone.
Yet, it’s more than that. Our dependence on technology has given way to complete complacency even within the compound. When the power was still not on at 5pm, the Husband trundled on down to the courts to play cricket as is Saturday afternoon tradition. I dithered for a while at the apartment thinking surely the power should have been almost ready to flick back on. When it didn’t, I – still sweating from my afternoon walk – meandered down to the courts to watch the game. But when I got there, the courts were empty. No cricket players to be seen. So I stopped and considered. They had obviously decided not to play. But where the hell were they? I saw a group of people sitting down at the bar and, slightly miffed at not being invited (although to be fair – how would they have notified me?) made my way down to see if the cricketers were there – but they were not.
After a quick beer with the guys by the pool, I hightailed it up the hill back to our place – and once again found an empty apartment. With no bloody note either, mind you. The mystery continued. You see, communication on compound is generally pretty easy. We all have house phones – and Wifi is pretty much everywhere. So ordinarily finding where someone is, is a no-brainer. Sure we have local cell phones – but the most these get used is for work – or going into town. Otherwise, social activities are organized via Facebook messenger or email.
Finally, I located my local cell phone, saw 6 missed calls from the Husband and called him back. He had gone down to a friend’s place in search of me down the hill, and now they were all hanging out down there, having beers.
After allowing myself the luxury of a shower in a downhill apartment where the water still flowed freely, I joined the group outside and cracked open another beer. The group had already grown in size, somehow, people had found where the other people were, and started to congregate. And all round the compound, similar groups were popping up. For, when the TV and internet’s off in your house, what is there to do, but look to other people for entertainment?
Somehow, cold beer was still available, and then my friend had the grand idea of making pizza on the BBQ – a few pieces of flatbread, cheese, pepperoni and we were in business. As darkness crept over us past 6.30pm, there we were by the light of her phone in the kitchen, slicing up capsicum, mushrooms and trying not to burn ourselves on the hot pizza tray. Outside, the impromptu party grew, as more and more people showed up to sit round the table, drink beer, and talk shit in the darkness.
It was only a few minutes past 7pm, when suddenly, the lights flickered and we were back online mid-pizza cook-up. Of course, it was more convenient to have the lights back and the ability to connect to the Wifi again. But a part of me was hoping that the outage would have lasted for just a couple more hours. Because what happened that night, although appearing to be unique, was actually the opposite. It was an organic occurrence – people gathered. We need other people. Not all the time. Not every minute of the day. But when the power went off and there was no reason for us all to hibernate in front of our TVs, computers and phones, nature came through. It was natural. It was unplanned. We went out in search of each other, for entertainment, to share the experience. It’s an old, old concept, which unfortunately in this individualistic society, is something we tend to forget.
I’m kind of looking forward to the next outage.