August 8th, 2008

wayfaring wordhack

This is still Mayotte, An Illustration

New house, same old Mayotte...

When this residence was built four years ago, two sisters, CM and MAM, were the first occupants, and they lived here the duration of their stay, which came to an end in July. We took the house that CM lived in and this coming Monday, I believe the tenants for next door will arrive from mainland France.

A few days after moving in, mana_trini and I went to Grande Terre to take care of the utilities, and everything went without a hitch since we knew who the previous renter was and we even had a graciously-provided copy of one of her electricity bills, as well as the proof that she had turned off the water in her name. I must admit to almost choking when I saw her electric bill--more than three times superior to ours, and she was a single lady--my first thought being that someone was pirating her electricity.

Things bopped along just fine, the only problem with the electricity and the house being the completely ignorant placement of switches and the downright stingy lack of outlets, until...yes, until ... (you were warned) a mysterious car pulls up in front of my house, parking where I can only see the silver fender. Not wanting to be Mistress Busybody, I wonder why someone is parked in such an odd spot but then go about my business of cleaning without investigating. (Note to self: always investigate, moniker of nosiness be hanged!)

After the car leaves, I go upstairs and realize by the black computer screen and lack of a telltale light on the AC that we no longer have electricity. Not a big deal. Happened a lot at the other house. So, I go downstairs, test all the breaker switches. Nothing. This is Mayotte, so I'm not too worried, but when I see my landlady get out of her car, I ask if she has electricity. She assures me she does. So, it's not a city- or neighborhood-wide problem. It's my problem. She kindly lets me use her phone to call a technician. The technician makes me repeat the tests with the breaker. I do, still nothing. I call back; he tells me to call another number to make sure that they haven't cut me off for not paying my bills or some such. I call the other number. Our dossier is fine, but she can't send a technician until tomorrow. She wants me to call back the first technician and ask him to send someone because as she says, "You can't pass the night in the dark." I guess I could, but I don't want my fridge and freezer to, so I do as she says. Voice-mail. I wait, call again, extremely embarrassed at the fifty million calls I'm having to make on the landlord's phone, only to once again get the voice mail. I leave a message and, confident that my plea of speedy service will not go ignored, go back home to make cinnamon rolls (gas oven) to thank the landlady for letting me use her phone.

As I'm standing in the kitchen, what do I hear? Someone messing with my meter! Suspecting foul play, I hightail it outside and come nose to nose with...the meter man!


Yes, as it turns out. After explaining my problem and trying to turn him into a technician, we open both meter covers (the meters for the two residences are side by side.)  Ours (CM's), the one on the left, just as our house is on the left, has a blue security tab on the off-limits box and MAM's has a yellow tab. "See this?" the meter man says, lifting the yellow tab. "This means that the line has been closed."

Well, a light goes off in my head, which is, thankfully, not dependent on Electricité de Mayotte for its power supply, and I grasp that somehow in that wacky Mahorais way, the meters were mixed up, or rather the lines to the meters had been crossed. I thank Mr Meter Man and bother the landlord's housekeeper once more to use the phone and explain the fiasco to the nice lady at EDM.

"But how is that possible?" she exclaims.

"The residents were sisters; they had never lived anywhere else in Mayotte and had nothing else to compare their experience to."

"But it's just not possible," she insists, so I feel it necessary to explain to her that these two ladies lived here for four years and did not even realize that they had separate mailboxes. (MAM had mail--once J opened it for her with a key that CM had--dating back to June 2007 and other things that were so insect-devoured that there was no telling how long they had been in there.)

So for FOUR years, CM paid her sister's exorbitant electricity bill, and MAM, who has a teenage son, paid CM's lower bill. I don't know how much lower, only that it was because, yeah, I just had to ask if she was an energy hog and what was the explanation for such an astronomical bill.

After my explanation, the nice EDM lady says she'll try to get her people on it ASAP.

Three hours later, and no technicians in site. It's lunchtime, and the landlord has comes home to eat. Obviously filled in by the housekeeper, he comes over to see what the problem was. I explain and he claims to know someone at EDM and goes off, a bit riled, to see if he can set things straight. Not long after, two of his electrician buddies--who do NOT work for EDM, I do not believe--come by, snip off the yellow security tab, and flip the switch, giving me sweet juice again. Ah, the hum of a working freezer!

A couple of hours later, *official* EDM technicians arrive, and we (J was home by then)  explain the situation yet again. And the technicians don't really grasp it, so they call headquarters and make J explain it to the boss. After a herculean group effort, it is decided to leave the meters mixed as they are, the crossed lines remaining crossed in all their Mahorais glory. We shall simply change the meter number on our dossier. And who is going to change the number and make sure everything gets straightened out?  The technician who doesn't understand anything to begin with. Naturally.

Anyone care to vote as to whether or not we've heard the end of this story?

Oh, and because, we can't leave it looking so neat and tidy and tied up...friends of the soon-to-be neighbors are trying to get the apartment  next door ready for the new arrivals, so I have to explain which meter is theirs, give them a copy of CM's last bill, and declare that under no circumstances are they to let the EDM people close the line belonging to Faure.

We shall see. We always do. Sooner or later.

ETA: J spoke with friend of soon-to-be neighbors (who also works for the PAF). Apparently the friend's dossier was treated by the nice lady I had on the phone, so she was able to follow the tangle. Now the only thing we need to keep an eye on is our first (at least) bill.