When alarms shriek and power fails, South Africans find humor in adversity

From power outages to blaring alarms, discover the unwavering resilience of South Africans as they navigate through chaos and unexpected challenges.


By the time you read this, I will be in Paris. As I write this, Paris is burning. My mother, who is visiting from South Africa, is coming to Paris with me.

She points pointedly at a front-page newspaper headline: “UK tourists are warned over travel to France,” it says.

That’s not to say it’s okay for non-UK tourists to visit France – it just happens to be a British paper that she’s reading. I laugh in her face.

“You’re from South Africa,” I remind her. “They’re always warning people not to visit South Africa, and you LIVE there.”

She laughs too.

That’s the thing about South Africans: we tend to be rather bullet-proof.

So while my mum and younger sister are with me on holiday in Dublin – and Paris – my older sister has decamped to the family home in Benoni.

After umpteen hours on the overnight bus from Cape Town with two children, all she wanted was a shower, a hot meal, and a good night’s sleep.

And God laughed.

And Eskom laughed.

And Rand Water laughed.

And then the house alarm across the street joined in, shrieking out its late-night hysteria. It didn’t stop for 48 hours.

Twice, bakkie-loads of technicians came and went, and still that alarm howled. We’re grudgingly impressed by the absentee neighbour’s power-source that keeps the alarm going relentlessly.

Here’s the thing though: it’s against the law.

When a noise problem is persistent – and an incessant alarm is definitely that – it’s in contravention of numerous laws and bylaws in municipalities across the country.

I’m pretty sure there’s a legal limit to alarms sounding too: 15 minutes, perhaps, or three. If there’s not, there should be.

For the sake of everyone’s sanity, alarms can and must be adjusted so that they only ring for a short period.

As for my sister, the neighbour’s alarm was finally stopped – possibly by a bullet – and the power came back on, and went off again, and came back on, but the water decided not to…

And I’m going to Paris, and our Sefrican mommy is coming too, so what’s that you say about some righteously furious protesters in Paris?

Well, what about it?

We’re South African.

We might even join in.

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