Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Woe! Woe! Thrice and four times woe!

When you are slowly "recovering" from jet lag, you really don't want the day to pan out like this.....


A warm, sultry night it was last night (as most of them are at this time of year): air-conditioning would be needed. For the past few nights, I had been making do with a large desk-fan in my bedroom, but it had seemed to be getting both noisier and less efficient with each passing minute, and had been badly eroding the amount and quality of my sleep. After a major search, I finally relocated the remote control for the air-conditioner unit in that room. I realised that I had probably flung it aside in despair in the first place, because it is ridiculously over-complicated - with about 17 different buttons, none of which actually seems to do anything. Well, the 'up' and 'down' arrowed buttons, which you'd assume would adjust the temperature, certainly seem to be inoperative, having zero effect either on the display on the remote itself or on the temperature of the air (disturbingly warm) coming out of the vent. And it's a noisy bastard of a unit as well; that's why I usually try to get by without it.

So, there I was, tossing and turning, blaming my insomnia on the heat and the rattle of dodgy air-con (when probably it had more to do with ongoing timezone confusion, or with the fact that I had been up far too late the previous night and had then allowed myself the imprudent luxury of a lie-in till lunchtime to recover); alternating between air-conditioning, fan, air-conditioning and fan, or nothing at all; pondering whether I should try sleeping in one of the other rooms (the living-room, strangely, stays much cooler at night; the study has a much quieter air-con unit; maybe I'd even give the guest bedroom a shot..... although there's more traffic noise there, and equally rumbly air-con....). It had got to about 3am. Not good.

Then it got worse. The power went off. I assumed at first that a loose wire in one of the dodgy air-conditioners or fans had tripped a fuse, so went out on to the landing to re-set the master switch. After 30 seconds, the power went off again. And again. And again. To my horror, I realised that the master switch was being tripped by the meter: I was out of pre-pay! How the heck did that happen? I know the rates of usage pretty well now, after 3 years in the same apartment, and even with the high air-conditioning use during this sweaty period of the summer, I hadn't expected to run short for at least another month. I mean, I only topped up 6 or 7 weeks ago...... and I've been away for 5 of those! Something rotten somewhere......

When you can't recharge the smartcard for the meter until the banks open at 9.30am, 3am on the hottest night of the year is decidedly not a good time for your electricity to run out.

I went to sleep - or to try to - on a sofa in the sitting-room. Some time just after dawn, lying in a pool of sweat, I finally began to doze a little.

Shortly before 6am, the garden-wallahs set to work with chainsaws in the public park outside my window. No kidding! This is China.

Eventually, I got used to that racket and started to doze, fitfully, once again.

Shortly before 8am, someone rang on my doorbell. Now, why the hell would they do that? Nobody ever rings on my doorbell; certainly not at that ridiculous hour of the morning. Luckily, they went away before I could find something heavy to drop on their heads.

Realising that Fate was conspiring against me, I gave up on attempting to sleep, and tried to potter usefully around the apartment for the 90 minutes or so until the banks opened.

Strange how the brain (a sleep-deprived brain, especially) slips into such unthinking behavioural ruts. You'd think, wouldn't you, that the absence of electrical power would be easy to register, that you wouldn't keep being surprised by it every 5 minutes? "Oh! The television doesn't work!" "Oh! The kettle doesn't work!" "Oh! The Internet connector doesn't work!" "Oh! The bathroom light doesn't work!" And so on and so on.

First thing in the morning is usually a bad time to hit the banks. Everybody thinks they'll try to beat the rush, and starts queueing up 20 or 30 minutes before opening time, thus ensuring that this is the biggest rush of the day. I left it until 10am to try my luck, but the queue at my small local branch of the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China was stretching out of the door and down the street. I tried again an hour or so later: still no better. I tried again another hour or so later: still no better. Boy, I really picked the wrong day to run out of electricity credit.

I went on a long walk around town, partly to see if I could find another bank that looked as if its queues might take less than an hour to process. Eventually, I settled on the largest ICBC outlet in my neighbourhood. And queued there for an hour.

Pretty much the whole day wasted, then. But hey, at least all my comforting electrical gizmos are fully functional once again.

And I have some slight prospect of getting a little sleep tonight.......

1 comment:

Tulsa said...

agh! that's awful. and it reminds me I need to check my card when I get home tonight.

I've never liked window units (well, the ac's here aren't really window units, are they? but the effect is the same). They're incredibly inefficient, cool the room up too much or not at all, and no matter how fancy, simply make too much noise.

It seems like indoor temp here is never quite right. Either the radiators are tooo warm, or hardly warm. the ac is never quite right, the fan can't do the job on it's own. Winter and summer nights are spent fitfully awakening every few hours to adjust the temperature.

Of course, older homes in the USA have the same climate control problem. But their excuse is they are "old", as in built before better technology became common. But as advanced as China is, their application of newer climate control methods is limited.

It's not just about hot and cold, it's also about air quality. Buildings commonly lack internal air filtration systems. And trust me, if my home in Oklahoma (API 50 and less) benefits from one, you'd think homes in Beijing (API 150 and UP) couldn't possibly be built without one!!

hmm, okay. so that got me started. anywaaaaayyyys, better luck tonight.