It’s about 7:00 p.m. and the island is pretty quiet tonight. The only sounds I hear are the pleasant chirping of the birds, an occasional neighborhood dog barking, and the persistent humming of generators. This is because over the last 24 hours the power has gone out countless times. In fact, in the time it’s taken to write this posting the power has gone on and off twice.
It all started at about 1:00 in the morning last night when I was abruptly awakened by the sound and feeling of the ceiling and box fans shutting down. At this point, I realized that the power was out. We don’t have air conditioning and our generator is in the shop, so things got a little stuffy. In fact, the stuffier things got, the more awake I became. And, since the mosquitoes thrive in still air, they were out in a full force attack. I got up and put on some bug repellent, while my boyfriend lit some citronella candles. Then I continued to toss and turn most of the night while the electricity proceeded to turn on and off until my alarm mercifully went off.
When I got to work, most people agreed that they had had a fitful night of sleep as well, and we were all relieved to be in an air conditioned building, especially since the power continued to go on and off all morning. The building I work in has what one of my co-workers proudly proclaimed to be, ‘the best generator ever!’ when the power went off as she was trying to train me on how to use the company computer system. Apparently, having a good generator means that when the power goes out at my office, the lights flash off, the generator automatically kicks in, and the lights go right back on. This all happens over the course of maybe a minute, but it still blows my mind that this is how things function down here, and I can’t avoid being a bit distracted by it. The lights go out, and I immediately look around at everybody else for a reaction. However, I’m constantly confused by how unphased everyone is by this disruption. They all continuously keep working away on their computers.
I’ve been told that the cost of electricity in St. Thomas is 10 times more expensive than in the States, and we all know that the electricity functions pretty smoothly up there. The paper today reported that there would be a 10% increase in electricity soon. I’m dying to know what they plan on improving with this increase. Will 10% more actually get them to figure out what most of the civilized world already knows?
What’s most perplexing to me is what is, or isn’t going on down at the Water and Power Authority (WAPA). Whenever I think about the happenings inside the walls of WAPA, I can’t help but imagine that, similar to Desmond in the TV show Lost, some poor idiot has been put in isolation under a hatch at the WAPA facility and is being told to enter the same code into a computer over and over again, or else the power will go off. When he has any sort of lapse in this mundane duty, there’s an outage. This is how much sense this is all making to me. I’m actually drawing parallels from the island of St. Thomas to a fictitious, mystical island that has black smoky blobs, unicorns and Matthew Fox on it. However, it is becoming very clear to me that the way things go on St. Thomas are often inexplicable and confusing. You have to simply go along with it.