Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The 11th good thing about Lagos: Generators

Probably an average of about 6 times a day everything electrical will suddenly go off and there will be a lag of around 5-10 seconds before the generator kicks in and power is restored. Many people who have been here for a while don’t even notice it at all. But, to me, it’s still a little a bit of a surprise. It’s been a big surprise several times when I’ve been jogging at a pretty good clip on the treadmill and it has come to a dead stop. After the first time, when I almost fell flat on my face, I’ve learned to be prepared to suddenly grab the handrails to support me at the first sign of a drop in power. There’s never any visible signal of when the power actually comes back on and the generator stops doing its work. Most apartment buildings with expatriates (us needy ones) have 2 generators so there is a backup if the first one goes out. Also, many expatriates have a UPS or two – a universal power supply, so when the sudden drop of power comes, it doesn’t stop your computer or TV or whatever else you want to plug into it to avoid the short interruption of power. Today I was doing some exploring and shopping with my new women friends here and we stopped at their building to drop off some perishables and we were heading out again when their gate guard stopped us and said that they were about to do some work on their generators and their power would be off for an hour and they should unplug their computers and any other things electrical so nothing would be damaged if there was a power surge when they got things going again. They were grateful for the notice and we went back up to their apartments and scurried around turning things off. We were laughing at ourselves later about how we were all kind of running around in a panic to protect those things which, naturally, they didn’t want damaged. I was reminded of something the Nigerian security man said the other day when I went with some company people checking out possible buildings for them to acquire for expatriate housing. He said “the most fearful person is a rich man -- the poor have no reason to fear.” There’s some truth in that.

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