Voices at midnight

No power last night, which is not unusual, but this time it didn’t come on at all from getting back from work to going to bed. We cooked on my gas and ate in the dark.

Went to bed at my usual too-late hour, woken at 00h30 by knocking on a window somewhere.

I’m disorientated, who’s window? Where’s the noise? Is it the guards telling me that the door is open? But why now so late? Something is different.

Then men’s voices, shouting, outside Steph’s room, moment of alarm as not sure what’s going on. Hear them talking at her window, Steph shouting "What? What? What?", she also suddenly alarmed, confused and woken from sleep.

I fumble for head-torch next to pillow, untangle self from mosquito net, stumble to back door. Three men, including Lex, standing there. Sight of Lex puts me at ease a little, as he seems to be there voluntarily and looks relaxed. But the men?

"Er, hello?" I mumble.
They are from Escom they say, come to do something to the power. "Huh?"
"The power. We have come to look at it."
"It is off."

I still couldn’t work out what was going on. It was past midnight, the house in darkness but for the beam from my head-torch. They asked to come in. Suspicious, I asked for ID, this duly shown, dimly lit by my head-torch through mosquito mesh. All still dark.

"Why’re you working so late then?"
"We work in shifts, 8pm to 8am, through the night."
"Oh….. Eh, what do you want?"
"We want to help the power problem."
But how do they know? Why us?
"First we need to check the switch inside"
They see my hesitation and suspicion, and add "You can also check it yourself."
"Okay, I’ll do that."

I go to switch, and indeed it is off, flip and lights come on, fridge buzzes again. Go back, feeling a bit stupid.

"Ah, yes, it is working," I mumble, "Zikomo kwambiri." (thanks very much)

They say thanks and goodbye, into a bakkie and hear them drive off, still utterly confused. Steph still shaken by being woken by strange men at her window. Pennie comes out as her bedroom light has come on. Try to piece together what happened. Steph is very suspicious – why at midnight? They can’t be Escom. They want to steal our mattresses. We wonder how they could know that our power was off, since it was a problem inside our house at the trip switch. Did our guards call them? Why? But it is Lex, the prince of guards. But it seems very unlikely. We don’t even think he has a phone. So why did they come? Robbers coming posing as Escom workers co-incidentally on the night when our power is off? Unlikely. We can only conclude that somebody, maybe Lex, let them know that our house was in darkness, and they came to see what was wrong. Although their arrival after midnight, unannounced, was a bit unusual, I have to admit that this is pretty good service. In retrospect I felt a bit bad for not letting them in.


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