It’s Friday afternoon. I get home to the smell of something glorious happening in the oven. On the way home the wife sent me a text message – “do not worry about dinner.” Roast chicken and veggies. A wholesome, family dinner. As we are about to dish up, the power goes out. “Well, at least the chicken was done. Good timing”. We dish up and sit down to eat. My party trick when the power goes out is a gooseneck LED lamp plugged into a power bank, but since it is dinner time, this calls for a more traditional approach. We get candles and light them on the table. “Wow, this is actually quite romantic”, I say as we tuck into our wholesome goodness.

An hour later we are still feeling our way around the house in the dark. I trip over the electric heater cable looking for batteries for a torch lantern. “We should probably report this, hey?” What if everyone else was also as blase as us about the power outage and no one had reported it? I start googling. The first result is an Eskom website on how to report electricity faults or outages. There’s a hotline, an SMS line and an email address. Let me try the SMS and email address first for fun, I think. Usually, a machine is more efficient than a human. So I send a text message and an email to the numbers provided. We decided to go to the shop to get some provisions in case the power outage lasts longer than our patience.

Two hours later we are still in the dark. “Have you tried phoning someone?”, my wife asks. “Look at the electricity bill, there’s a number to call.” I find the number and start keying in the number on my cellphone. As I press dial, the lights come back on. “Well, no need now.” By this time there was no response from the email or the text message. Someone else must’ve reported it.

We decided to keep the candles on and enjoy the semi-darkness. “You know what?” I say, trying to sound wise and profound. “Sometimes I just want to know that that if I were to switch the lights on that there would be power”.

Eskom did phone me back regarding my text message, a day later and sent a message.

“Good day. Eskom reference number 310224097. Kindly note we called you but there was no answer. Kindly resend request or alternatively call Eskom on 0860037566 if you [sic] still experiencing electricity supply problems. Kind regards.”

The email support was slightly less helpful and responded 15 minutes after the SMS but needed more information:

“Kind provide us with your 10-digit Eskom account number or 11-digit prepaid number to enable us to further assist.”

“Please note that for life-threatening Eskom related emergencies, we recommend that you rather call our Contact Centre on 0860037566.”

Guess it’s better to speak to a human after all.