25 September 2006

No Power

Before going to bed last night, I managed to wash the fish out of my travel bag and get a load of damp, dank, smelly clothes into the machine and then hung on the drying rack, which I had to put inside because of the continuing rains. I’d gotten my Monday lesson plans together, and picked out what I would wear the next day. All I had to do was to go to sleep.

When I awoke, it was still grey, gloomy, and a little chilly. I walked into the kitchen to put the water on and realized I had no electricity. I checked all the switches, and nothing worked. This meant I was going to get a cold shower.

Once that little torture episode was over, I walked over to the breaker box and saw a main switch was down. I put my hand on the wall next to the box and almost screamed out loud from the fright of touching a very hot wall. Panic set it. I sniffed around for fire and smelled nothing. I have now learned that a phone call to management, especially at 6am, is useless. I quickly dressed and rode the elevator down to the ground floor and ran to find the security guard.

Between my limited Vietnamese, borderline ranting and mime, I conveyed my situation to the concerned security man. He radioed someone else and told me it would just be a minute. I may have been jumping up and down by this time.

Soon, the fix-it security man rode up on his bike and I tried to explain things as I nearly pulled him to the elevator and then up to my floor. He was very shocked by the heated wall and went into the hall to cut the power. He assured me there was no chance of a fire. I had already been figuring just how much of my valuables I could take into work. I told him that two electricians had worked on the breaker box the afternoon before. He told me he could have someone there by 8am. Since I had to go to work, we arranged for a 1:30 appointment, but not before I made him tell me at least three more times that nothing would ignite in my absence.

When I came home from work I was happy to see everything was still intact. The new electrician arrived, but no one had told him anything other than I was without power. Again, my attempt at conversation was pitiful, but he understood. I was truly impressed by the first thing he did which was to make sure the power was off. Every other time, including yesterday, the workers can’t be bothered to do so and say, “no problem”. I’m sorry, but 220V is a huge problem. Every time someone comes in to do a repair, I mentally rehearse my lapsed CPR training.

In no time, the electrician had the breaker box apart and the problem solved. One of the wires was not attached to where it should have been screwed in. I told him, or at least tried to, about the two men who were here yesterday and had taken everything apart but had somehow failed to notice a big fat wire sticking straight out. I guess I really am lucky they didn’t get fried in my apartment.

I am really happy that it was such a simple cure and not a major re-wiring issue. It also explains all those lights that fade in and out, which I had assumed was due to fluctuating currents. And now maybe my internet connection will not flick on and off at all the wrong times.

Maybe tonight I will sleep well.