Load shedding – we have no words

There are cold dinners, disrupted sleep and general fear and loathing. South Africa’s energy crisis brings with it small irritations – and we need new words to describe them.

For non-South Africans, very briefly: our power utility is unable to supply enough power to meet demand, so there’s a system of scheduled rotational power cuts to deal with that. You can be without electricity for periods of two to hour hours, more or less, spread across various times of day.(Nine things you need to know about electricity)

The name for that is load shedding. The name for all the other problems caused by this disaster (lost incomes, hospitals unable to function, traffic lights not working, sewage stations breaking down, for instance) is simple: it is called the destruction of the economy.

But, day to day, there are those small moments which could so do with a descriptive word:

The moment when you’ve switched on the kettle, or put a bowl of porridge in the microwave, or slotted some bread into the toaster. Only to realise a minute or two later that in fact you will not have hot water, or porridge, or toast for several hours or so. FOMP, perhaps (fear of missing power)

The really odd feeling of having been told that the power will go off at say, 6pm, and then it lingers, until finally the lights go out at, say, 6.23pm. There is probably a German word for being irritated when something that you thought was going to be taken away just… wasn’t. And then was.

The little start you have when everything switches on again. (Because one good thing about loadshedding is the silence: until everything goes off, you have no idea how much background noise electrical appliances generate).

Waking up in the middle of the night (with yet another start) to discover that almost every light in the house is on, because you went to bed in load shedding and couldn’t remember what was on or off before the power cut. So you swore a bit, and just left it all as is.

The sinking sensation when you get up in the morning and had completely forgotten that there was a load shedding slot, right then. Why is it so dark? Oh, right.

Your (un)favouritest load shedding moments? Any suggestions for ways to extend our vocabulary?

Main picture: Anne Nygård, Unsplash

The stuff that’s always at the bottom of blog posts….

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  1. No water. We use tank water with pumps. When the power is off so too is the water.

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