13 December 2006

Let's be nice and everything will be OK

The topics of the day in Rosario were the heat and the daily occurrence of power cuts (which, for the nth time, don't mean there is a crisis). The "official" date of the beginning of summer is 21 December (it has to do with the traditionally fixed date of the summer solstice) but nobody feels this is spring since a month ago. When the temperature goes over 27 or 28 degrees C, everyone who has access to air conditioning turns it on and cranks it up all the way. The latter can be rather unhealthy, especially during your night sleep. Personally, I haven't been granted by nature with a generous, or even appropriate, coating of insulating hypodermic fat, so I dread temperature extremes; in some places the A/C is cranked up so much that you need to put on extra clothes to avoid catching a cold.

Well, that will be no more. Luis El Halli Obeid, the head of EPE (Empresa Provincial de la Energía, the Santa Fe state power company), has resolved that, if we play nice and collaborate by not setting the A/C below 25 C, the power grid will be relieved and we won't have so many power cuts. However, Obeid went on, the heat we're experiencing now is obviously just the first taste of a hellish summer, so the worst is yet to come (yes, he literally said that), and the crisis small problems we've been suffering will only be solved by investing about 70 million pesos.

In the meantime, of course, the employees of EPE do not pay electric bills (you read right: they get electric power for free), earn fabulous salaries, and some (not many, but everybody knows there are more than a few) routinely work as private electricians "fixing" domestic power consumption meters for a nice bribe. And Luis El Halli Obeid, cousin of the provincial governor Jorge Obeid, tells us that we must be nice and sweat while they update the grid. The situation is reminiscent of Bill Gates telling us that, yes, Windows is full of security holes, and yes, we'll be catching a virus or a trojan and losing our files and our credit card numbers every now and then, and yes, it'll be worse before it gets better, so we should probably not use the computer more than one or two hours a day. The main difference in this case is that there's a Linux, but there's no alternative for EPE. If you get a portable power generator, after a few months of lowered bills EPE will send inspectors to your house to see why. The company has never apologized for the thousands of man-hours lost because of power cuts; sometimes, when a power spike destroys appliances, you can get compensation money after months of complaints, but you will never recover the money your icecream shop lost because of a three-hour blackout in the middle of January, or the data in the hard disk you lost to repeated power failures, or the hours of sleep you didn't get in a torrid summer night because you didn't have a fan, or the carefully crafted blog post that disappeared when your PC resetted itself out of the blue because some transformer blew up here or there.

The day I see Luis El Halli Obeid paying his own electric bill and sweating in his own living room, I will believe he's not just one more despicable fruit of nepotism.

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