Things get better, then terrible

 Just yesterday—Wednesday the 29th—my life was gingered. In my fiction section on Tuesday, we looked at how a local scene, theme or description can be emotionally powerful to resonate at a global level; the connection between the national and universal appeal, why some works hit the global canon, and we talked about food. Drinks. How through writing we might understand the importance of specific Southern cooking, for instance (even if some of us may not be from the South), by reflecting on our own culture-specific foods. I mentioned my first time to eat grits—two weeks ago. So they asked if I’d tasted Alabama ginger ale. I hadn’t. Wednesday I get to class and what do my students have for me? A carton of Birmingham’s trademark: Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale, spicy and sweet. We drink the ginger and write stories and have enough ale left to share with the nonfiction class, my next section. I’m thinking it can’t get better than this. We agree on food next time. I’m happy to bring some Ugandan food—if the plane lands on time—it’s fun sharing and learning this way. I’m feeling fulfilled, and also proud of my students, the kind of stories they’re so far producing: serious, mature, entertaining, intelligent and deep. 

Today I go to Alabama Power Company early in the morning to start service so that at the end of the month I can get the electricity bill in my name. Moved into this new place, which coincidentally is called Park place. So at the company I pay what needs to be paid for the initial connection, and I get back home feeling happy that I’ve done my duty, only to discover they’ve in fact disconnected my power. I call to ask what’s going on, only to be told I’ll be connected tomorrow. I’m like, wait, wait. I just moved into the apartment last weekend, and these power folks don’t work on weekends, but I’ve made it a point to have my electricity account sorted in my first week at my new digs. Instead of starting the meter they disconnect? And they’re not even able to connect me the same day they’ve disconnected me? Sounds Stone Age. Long, long story. It turns out the previous tenant has an outstanding bill but why should that be my problem? When I was moving into the house, I was promised by the leasing agency that there would be power and all I’d have to do was call the power company bla bla, to get my name in the records. I think of all the food in the fridge. I shop once a month, and I made a point to stock up on Saturday. Will it survive 24 hours and beyond? What about me? We’re in 80’s, humid and hot. I let the leasing agency know what’s going on, hoping they can help but inothing gets fixed. Then I remember all the things that were supposed to have been fixed by now: a storage key I was to have on Monday 27th, a mailbox key, a bedroom door that’s missing, blinds that need changing, and a few other things. It’s Thursday and none of the above have been delivered. When I call the leasing agency this time to inquire about the mailbox key especially, because I know I have mail, I’m an Amazon junkie and the books I’ve ordered have already arrived, I’m told tomorrow. This time I can’t help but say that’s been the common refrain: Tomorrow. When did we begin talking figuratively? When did business translate into a metaphor? The voice at the end of the line repeats: Tomorrow, and this time I sigh and end the call. I’ve made phone calls and physical visits to the office I’m beginning to identify with Waiting for Godot. I’m thinking I should do a sequel, but that’s just a bad idea. A blog is the way to vent. So here I am, in my burning apartment, wondering whether to take refuge at a friend’s place, who hosted me while I was house-hunting, or begin to realize that this might become a trend and I can’t keep running.  

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2 Responses to Things get better, then terrible

  1. Bob Kisiki August 31, 2012 at 12:01 am #

    Wait a tiny minute, Midi. I thought you were in Birmingham, no? How’s it that you point out all these Kampala traits?
    Else, I am impressed how you make even painful moments so interesting.

    • MB August 31, 2012 at 2:34 pm #

      My dear, at least in K’la if they disconnect you and you pay the connection fee they put you on right away so the whole process can be two hours. Here, the government official goes with the key–our own version of ‘the man with the key has gone.’ Certain elements here resemble Russian fiction. Alabama Power Co has this ad: Always on. They wouldn’t need to say that if it was true, standard and basic. The fact that they have to say it means just the opposite. The Kafkaresque humor is alive and well and biting.

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