It was on one of those endless public holidays that dot the Ugandan calendar, it must have been midweek because it came with one of those surreal feelings. It came with the much needed sudden halt to life and its burdens. A momentary pause to everything and a chance to come up for air before i dived right back into the abyss of my gruelling work schedule. Given such opportunities, I never let them go to waste. I enjoy them thoroughly and make good use of what feels like stolen time, to rest and simply just be. No raving, no wanton indulgence, just plain old relaxation. I therefore decided to stay home and create a dent the shape of my body on the cushions of my couch, gluing my eyes, mind and soul to the box that stood in front of me, submerging myself in the virtual lives of the characters on the other side.
Well this was the plan anyway and with my housemate being out of town and me being all alone in the house, there was no one to interrupt or to pile feelings of guilt on me because I was barely dressed and had not even stepped close to the shower to take a bath. It was a plan I executed to the tee, right until what I thought was a divine intervention of sorts. The smell from my unwashed body must have reached the heavens and upset God into making a move, compelling the good people at UMEME to turn off the lights. And the lights would have indeed gone off had they been on to start with. It was now past 7pm and all around me was dark save for the soft glow of the television screen. The glow that had now been effectively extinguished by the “power company.”
It took me a while to discover that we had no candles in the house and that the rechargeable lamp had not been charged in a while. I was left with the option of using the flashlight of my phone to find my way around the house as I figured out my next move. The distinct 3 beeps from my phone stood as warning that it was low on charge. Now check!
Still too lazy to leave the house, I decided to call my boda guy to have him deliver candles to the house. Drat! I was out of airtime as well. No power. No candles. No airtime. Then as if by stroke of genius, i remembered that UMEME had a toll-free line. I would call them and ask for an update on the power outage and their efforts to resolve it (if any). Perhaps I would also convince whoever answered the phone, to send me some airtime that they would deduct from my next YAKA payment.
The person on the other end finally picked up the line after what seemed like an eternity listening to adverts on power theft and safety. It was a lady, Monica. I could tell from the tone of her voice that she was young and possibly had had a long day coz her voice was flat and void of all emotion. I stated my case and asked to know how long it would be till the power was back. I was told it was a dead transformer and those took some time. We were bound to stay in the dark for at least another day. That meant that my phone battery was not going to be salvaged anytime soon. Oh well, what to do. And just as I was about to ask her to help send me some airtime, she hang up the phone. Whatever happened to aftersales service?
I was now suddenly aware of the funky smell from my body and had no option but to take a bath, so off I run to the shower, still using the flashlight of my phone for light. My battery was now down to 5% and knowing these Chinese phones, it was going to go up to 10% then flat to zero within the next 15 mins. That meant I had to shower within 10 minutes and do anything else within the remaining 5.
Thankfully I made it out of the shower in 5 minutes (yes it was a full shower) and thankfully I had 10 minutes to spare. Since there was not much left for me to do, I figured I would turn in and call it a day. I would pray that I had a set of ironed clothes that I could wear to work in the morning and then perhaps charge my phone from there. I made my way to the front door to lock it, making sure all 3 padlocks were in place. My housemate would open them since he had the keys. It was too dark to leave the door unlocked. I got into bed and heard my phone ring, it was my housemate telling me he would not be back as he was spending the night at his girlfriend’s. That lucky cow! Not only would he have power unlike me, but he would also have a little extra warmth for the night, again unlike me. No sooner had he hang up than the phone died out. Well at least I had done all that I had to do. It was time to call it a night. The day had come to an end and save for the power outage, had been a good one. I was home alone and that also meant that I would get to fall asleep faster as there was no noise from my housemate trying to cook in the kitchen or stumbling over furniture in his often drunken state.
I closed my eyes and as I drifted to sleep, I heard someone sneeze. I was not alone.