Tuesday, October 20, 2009

KPLC, you are my Mr. Miyagi

Dear Kenya Power and Lighting Company,

I am writing to express my gratitude to you for teaching me a valuable life lesson. As Mister Miyagi mentored the Karate Kid, so have you mentored me. Only one year ago I was an uptight Mzungu, full of trivial earthly desires, such as having lights to stop me falling down the stairs at night and power for mere trifles like hot water and cooking.

Today, thanks to your regularly administered power outages and trance-inducing delays in fixing said outages, I am a humbled, patient man.

Only one year ago, I believed that power companies would try to plan for contingencies. I thought, for example, that you would have considered that Kenya is prone to periods of drought, that it has several rainy seasons each year and that rapid urban expansion is demanding more power.

Can you believe I actually thought that you, KPLC - and your masters the Kenyan government – would be grappling with these issues and trying to find ways to solve them?

Yes, I was that fool. But you, KPLC, wisest of all power companies, have taught me the error of my ways.

You understand that to attempt to battle Mother Nature is like trying to grasp mist. It is better to simply allow the hydroelectric dams to run dry, then raise your hands to the sky and cry : “Mother Nature has decreed there will be no power!” Then double the price of electricity.

When the rains come, when the power lines across Nairobi spit out blue fire in praise of the Electricity Gods and homes are plunged into darkness, it is best for the lady in your call centre to tell your customer, who is calling you for the fifth time in two days: “It is the rain.” Then hang up.

But your repairmen, truly they are masters of zen.

A few months ago, I would hop with anger and yell, my face going bright red like so many of those others silly white people who are always complaining about something or other. I would wonder why on earth these repairmen had to keep coming back – more than a dozen times in six weeks - to “fix” the same problem

Then today I met your team, who turned up a mere 48 hours after I first reported my power was down. These men, five perfect proponents of Zen, were parked outside my neighbour's gate in a tiny van, waiting for the guard to let them in. After waiting for ten minutes, during which period not one of them got out of the van to find out what was going on – what patience! - I came back from the office and led them to the right compound.

These men are astonishing. They live in the moment like no other human being. They proudly announced to me that the problem was solved because they had “changed a fuse.” Lo, was my electricity restored!

What mastery of the time/space continuum! What a complete lack of memory of previous visits! Even my attempts to explain to them how electrical systems actually work and that a blown fuse is usually a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself - particularly when it blows repeatedly - could not penetrate their Zen armor. These men will return tomorrow to change the same fuse, completely unaware of what went before. Amazing!

It was at this point I finally realized the error of my ways. As I watched them climb back into their van and drive away, content at a job well done, I knew I must follow your example.

From now on, no problem in my life will go resolved. If anything goes wrong, I will simply blame a series of entirely predictable and preventable factors instead of facing up to the problem. I will refuse to learn from any experience. I will forget what went before and concentrate on maintaining a perfect state of reactive vacancy.

And, most importantly, the next time the power fails, I will not call you. I will simply wait patiently, my hands folded, and contemplate the majesty of life while the milk goes off in the fridge and my infant child cries in the dark for its mother, who has fallen done the stairs and broken her neck in the darkness.

This gift you have given me.

Michael Logan.

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