Monday, October 27, 2008

Rock down to, Electric Avenue

In no uncertain terms the world has been put through the mincer during the last month. Now that free-market neo-liberalism has self-destructed and the ideological framework that has underpinned Western society for the last 30 years has fallen like a house of cards, I guess a few beers are in order. Let's drink to the future.

Now that the government has bailed out the nefarious dealings of private sector finance, some Americans have the "reds under the bed" fear that their country has embarked upon a socialist nationalization program. On the contrary though, the whole affair more closely resembles the privatization of the state itself as it offers up its resources for finance capital to plunder once more.

People's hopes for Obama are going to take a serious dent when, upon election, he finds that the cupboard is bare. Thirty years of deregulated markets, eight years of Dubya and this is what happens. As that scabrous old coot PJ O'Rourke once remarked, "Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work, then they get elected and prove it."

Let's not get carried away with world events though. It was rather less grandiose matters, in fact, that took center stage at Chez Metro Mad last week. Like global stock markets, Metro Towers underwent a meltdown of its own, and it was literal rather than a metaphorical. Sitting in the office last Monday I was called by a housemate who told me that our maid had just contacted him to inform that all of our electrical appliances at home had smoke billowing out of them. Hmmm, not good. Apparently the poor girl had been running around in a lather of fear trying to unplug everything at the risk of electrocuting herself. There'll be a handsome Rp 250 bonus for her at the end of this month, that's for sure.

Upon returning home I was confronted with the usual gaggle of rubberneckers who instantly rock up whenever anything vaguely out of the ordinary occurs on the street. From the middle of this throng emerged a PLN employee complete with a smart emblemized baseball cap and a clipboard. He informed me, with a big grin, that there had been a power surge at our place (always with the smiles in Indonesia, as if that's going to sugar the pill. "Sorry Mister, you're paralyzed, you will spend the rest of your life in a wheelchair," grin, smirk, beam).

Anyway, to cut a short story even shorter, a fault outside our house (and I think that the word "outside" is terribly important here) had caused the normal 220 V supply to spike at a TV frying 330 volts of throbbing electrical fun. Presumably this wasn't deliberate; one would hope PLN hasn't embarked on a new promotional scheme involving pumping extra electricity into people's homes at no extra charge.

After much erecting of ladders and twiddling around with those funky screwdrivers with flashing lights on the inside, our rictus grinning sparky declared the problem to be fixed and we all stepped inside to survey the damage. The initial prognosis on our electrical appliances wasn't too good. In our large house of four bedrooms we had lost: 2 ACs, 3 TV sets, a computer, a stereo system and some lamps. It later turned out that, thankfully, many of the power plug transformers had been fried, as opposed to the actual appliances themselves. But we were still down on the deal. My computer had been saved by my voltage regulator (or so it seemed).

Our maid suggested that we give our smiling sparky a tip. Instead though, I suggested that he go back to head office and find us Rp 20,000,000 (US$2.013) which we could use to replace our frazzled gear with. Fat chance of that happening I guess. The unhappy consumer has little recourse in this country when something like this happens, and given the general condition of much of the electrical wiring here, I reckon it must happen a fair bit.

There's no point trying to butt heads with a monopolistic behemoth like PLN who have plenty of troubles of their own at the moment. Perhaps they could waive this month's bill as a gesture of good faith. I think that would be a fair response in light of the fact that their faulty wiring almost caused our entire house to burn down.

Any smart-asses with well-meaning advice and tips about what we should have done to protect our drum from the great surge, feel free to drop a few comments onto the MM blog. Anyone wishing to gloat at our misfortune is also most welcome to post up a few sneering ripostes.