Saturday, May 14, 2011

When the Lights Go Down in the City

Recently, my landlord informed me that they had to do some "repairs" to the house's electrical metering device thingy. To my astonishment, it turned out to be a new pay as you go type of meter. It's a simple device really, you basically buy credit and enter the numbers into the device. When you are nearly out of credit, the device starts beeping (like an alarm clock) every 20 minutes. When your credit runs out, the lights go out.

When this was first installed, the guy who installed it informed me that there was enough credit on there to last for the next couple of hours or so. This meant that I had to immediately go out and find an ATM machine and buy credit. This happened at a very inopportune time when it also happened to be raining. In the end, I managed to get credit and avoided a Saturday evening blackout.

This prevented me from having the pleasure of hearing the soothing sounds of "the lights are about to go out" alarm. This did eventually happen. Luckily, the meter is right outside my bedroom window. This worked out quite well as I was woken up at 3 A.M. by the alarm going off. It continued to go off in 20 minute intervals all night long. The only way to stop this is to buy more credit, which is not really an option in the middle of the night. I woke up to a hot stuffy room with no electricity. I managed to shower in the dark and immediately went searching for an ATM machine so I could top up my credit.

You would think that I would learn my lesson and not allow this to happen again. NO! A couple of days ago, I noticed that the level was getting low and that I should buy some credit soon. I forgot to do it that day. The next evening, I came home at 11 P.M. and heard the alarm going off. I realized that I had completely forgotten to buy credit. I decided to immediately go to the closest ATM and buy some credit as I didn't want to be kept up all night by the alarm, not to mention waking up to no electricity.

I went to the ATM, followed the steps of buying credit and was astonished to not have a receipt come out of the machine. The receipt is of the utmost importance as it contains the numbers you have to punch into the meter in order to top up your credit. Basically, this meant that I had just lost Rp. 500 000 ($50). I insisted that the guys at the convenience store (where the ATM was located) call the bank. They said not to worry but I insisted as I was not giving up my money without a fight. After answering a barrage of skill testing questions, the bank agreed to delete the purchase and put the money back in my account.

Relieved, I left the store only to soon realize that I hadn't managed to buy any credit. At this time of night, there was no other ATM machine within a reasonable driving distance. Dejected and tired from the 30 minutes I spent in the convenience store, I went home and prayed that the electricity would not go out. After a relatively sleepless night (guess why), I woke to a cool room that still had lights. I gave myself a high five and got into the shower. Halfway through my shower, lights out. I finished yet another shower in the dark and went searching for an ATM machine that had not run out of receipt paper. I found one and managed to get credit with relative ease, or so I thought.

Upon triumphantly returning with my receipt, I realized that the printing on the receipt was very blurry an spotty. The ink was about to run out on that ATM machine printer. This made it very difficult to decipher the 16 digit code. After 4 or 5 botched attempts (due to mistaking 8's for 3's etc) I managed to successfully enter the code and light and comfort once again returned to my humble home.

Hopefully I have learned my lesson and will manage to buy credit before it runs out next time. I would like to thank the PLN (Indonesian Electric company) as well as my landlord for putting me in this lovely predicament. I guess this is my reward for paying my bill on time for years on end.

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