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On the Couch: Give credit where it’s due

Published Sep 23, 2023


Flash bangs, assault rifles on auto fire, white phosphorous grenades.

The house of the couch was under attack by exploding power lines.

Two humans and five dogs were terrified by the extremely loud noises and white flashes. The furry one who runs to mom when a car backfires went into full Diwali/New Year’s body tremble.

We retreated to the kitchen. Somehow, we were on the back step, calling Electricity Faults. I didn’t even know it was in the phone contacts list. Our neighbour was at the wall, explaining that the home-of-the-hadedas tree was hitting the power lines, and telling us to turn the power off at the DB.

Trying to hear the woman on the phone and the neighbour and the barking canids was impossible, so we slammed the back door shut.

As this commotion was going on at 9.30-ish (I checked the phone records ‒ there’s no way I would remember this in the, errr, heat of the moment), I was also worried about a Very Important, pre-arranged group phone call I had to be on at 12.30. I stressed the urgency: our houses were certainly going to burn down if we didn’t get help fast.

The city woman, neighbour and I had a three-way conversation to provide his contact details too in case something happened while I was on the VI phone call, all to the background noise of shut-in, howling, terrified dogs now suffering separation anxiety. The trembly one, in normal circumstances, never lets me out of his sight, and I knew he was scared out of his wits.

As soon as the SOS call ended, I turned to go inside and get some calming tabs down his throat. The second disaster struck ‒ we had locked ourselves out.

Being Saffers, we obviously have every burglar bar imaginable in place. The other human, even being a tiny smidgeon, battled through one of them to reunite the pack. That lent me comfort: seeing how difficult it was for her, I know any wannabe burglar would be grievously injured by an angry woman with a hefty walking stick and multiple sets of powerful jaws during any attempted breach.

We drugged the desperate dog and huddled away from danger until one final explosion when the line broke 20 minutes later.

Back on the phone to report a live wire on the pavement, stressing the urgency once again.

Part of the panic came from Saffer municipalities’ much-reported slow-to-no responses. It’s a hot-button issue. But we have to give credit where it’s due. A city team arrived about an hour later, isolated the line while managing to keep the power on (I have no idea how), so with 15 minutes to spare I was flustered but ready for the VI call ‒ which was postponed.

The next day, a team ripped the offending tree branches down, installed a new, much thicker cable, along the whole street, and restored power by 4.30pm. Gratitude was showered upon these men and women.

This does not let cities off the hook for the many legitimate complaints and fury at their across-the-board apathy, failure, incompetence and, sometimes, downright inhumanity. They are real and the ever-louder demands for delivery of paid-for services will go on.

But the couch house has to extend enormous thanks to the on-the-ball call centre woman and the teams who did the work. If more people responded like they did, our cities could work again.

  • Slogrove is news editor

The Independent on Saturday