Powerless

I’ve managed to go my entire adult life without ever having the power company knock on my door, demand payment and then abruptly shut off electricity to the house.

It took seven days for this to happen in Granada.

Some backstory:

Two days after I arrived here, a note from the electric company was slipped under the door that said — I’m paraphrasing from the original Spanish — “You must pay us three hundred thousand trillion Cordobas for your past due electric bill or we will shut off your power next Tuesday.” I dutifully reported this to the landlord and thought nothing further of it.

Two days later, a representative from the electric company came by in person and handed me a second note that said — in the most respectful Nicaraguan style — “Thank you for being such a wonderful customer. We very much appreciate the opportunity to serve you. It would bring great sadness to everyone in our office if we were forced to shut off your electricity next Tuesday.”

I reported this to my landlord as well. I personally handed him both notes on one of his many unannounced visits.

Today, at 10:37 a.m., they came and shut off the power.

It’s not like I haven’t gotten used to living without power here. Blackouts are a regular way of life in Granada, and yesterday had been the worst day yet. The power was out for a good 4-6 hours yesterday, so I spent the majority of the day in my favorite café near the Parque Central, sipping on orange juice, eating a spinach salad that contained 42 pounds of cashews (estimated) and availing myself of the free wi-fi.

The irony of having the power purposefully shut off today was not lost on me.

Luckily, when the power company employees came by with a truck, ladder and big official-looking wrenches, Roberta the housekeeper was here doing her semi-hourly cleaning, so she called the landlord on her cell phone and he said he would rush right over and take care of it. He and I may have different interpretations of the word “rush.”

I think I’m a pretty easy renter. I’m quiet, respectful, careful. I gently attack any bats in the house with pillows instead of, say, firearms. I really don’t ask for much more than peace, quiet and not having the utility company send people over to shut off the power. I’ve had good luck renting places over the Internet, but I should have listened to my instincts on this one. There was something a little bit off even before I booked this place. For instance, this was one of the emails from the landlord when we were going back and forth on dates and prices:

Because you seem a most desirable renter – conscientioius.intelligent.single and probably jewish like myself – i am offering you a (unrequested) discount of $—/week if you transfer the two weeks amount of —- or $—- within the next three  business days.

For an American, he sure writes like the guy who authors the Nigerian scam emails.

Moments after I sent payment, he responded with this note:

I have an unusal question for you,which has only arisen due to several
factors,but mainly two:
1) That I have been here since Nov 25 ,my return ticket is for Feb 18
BUT i have recently considered extending my stay either in my house or
elsewhere.. 2) That the house has two bedrooms, each one on a SEPARATE
FLOOR. My question is , Would you consider me staying in one
bedroom,you in the other  and sharing the rest of the house to SAVE
RENT MONEY (Id send a partial refund via paypal.) You can read all
about me on VRBO.COM.Also let me add I am not gay. If you have
some interest we can further discuss it AND YOUR REVISED PRICE. Also I
can call you from here for just 5 centsa minute. So let me know.
Do NOT feel any pressure concerning this. Your decision will have no
affect on anything. IT COULD WORK OUT WELL OR NOT WELL! If we were
incompatible Id move out quickly as I have various places i can stay.
I GUARANTEE THAT!
If we share the house we will not enter one anothers bedroom, AND  I
will do my utmost not to be bossy or act like HEAD of the house. I am
a conscientious,careful person who has practised Buddhist meditation
for about 30 years.- so I am pretty aware and compassionate .
Also please note that a Cleaning lady will come in 5 days/week  from 9
to 11:30 and keep the house very clean.That should eliminate many
roommate type conflicts over sloppiness. She is nice person and does a
bang up job. She leaves rentors alone and just does her job. I pay for
her,you dont pay a cent.
So let me know and its entirely your choice-  plus if u r open to it I
suggest we have a 1 or 2 phone conversations.

I nixed this suggestion just as fast as my fingers could type. I had no interest in getting involved in Real World: Nicaragua with this guy.

Since I arrived here he has been by the house almost every day to drop something off, always without calling or emailing ahead. I just hear “Andrew!” through the open window and there he is. Two days ago he arranged for a backup property manager and another friend to meet him here, and they all hung out in the living room. Later he handed me his Nook e-reader and asked if I could figure out why it was dead.

So I wasn’t 100% surprised when the power company came by this morning to create my own personal blackout. In fact, I would put my surprise somewhere closer to 0%. I don’t know how things work in the states, but it turns out that in Nicaragua you have to pay your electric bill for all the months you have service, not just some of them.

Eventually, ninety minutes after the power was killed, the landlord showed up and explained in great detail how the electric company was in error, and swore up and down that the power would be back on that afternoon.

I took that to mean “some time in March.”

He also gave me the phone number of Roberta (the housekeeper) “in case some problem with the house” came up while he was out of town. The example he gave was a wild dog running around the inside of the house. He suggested this with an entirely straight face, and I’m pretty sure he was not kidding. He said it would be fun to watch Roberta chase a wild dog around the house, wouldn’t it? Roberta smiled in the manner of someone who was waiting to get her weekly pay from the gringo boss, but I’m pretty sure that Indoor Dog Wrangling isn’t among her Hobbies and Interests on Facebook.

After hanging around for an hour and asking if I’d be willing to receive the return of my security deposit by PayPal instead of by the cash I had paid, the landlord left and once again swore that the power would be back on that afternoon. Or maybe by the next day at the very latest. And by the way, he was leaving town for the rest of my visit.

Chance of me ever getting my security deposit back: 0%.

So I gamely headed back to the café for another afternoon of work, and when I returned to the casa around 4 p.m. you could have knocked me over with a wild poodle when I discovered that the power was actually back on. Figuratively shocking. Apparently the power company is wildly efficient when they’re, you know, providing power.

The bright spot in all of this is that I’ve become a “regular” at the café. The gal working the counter knew I’d be ordering an orange juice, and today I got it in a tall, sexy tropical glass, because I look like the kind of guy who would want an orange juice in a tall, sexy tropical glass.

The café is a nice place, with a huge open air courtyard in back away from the street noise. Last night, while working on my laptop, some Americans came around and said they were having trivia night and did I want to play? Heck yeah! There were four rounds, and the categories were:

  • General knowledge that Andrew knows nothing about.
  • Obscure 15th century Portuguese explorers.
  • Enrique Iglesias song lyrics that even Enrique Iglesias probably doesn’t know.
  • Rebuses that a five-year-old could solve.

I aced the rebuses, flailed on the rest of the categories, and came in a respectable fourth out of six teams. Since I was a team of one, I considered that a win.

One of gals running the trivia night stopped by to chat with me while I was in the middle of making up names that sounded like plausible 15th century Portuguese explorers (“Vasco de Ferens”) and I found out she was in Granada for six months with a program called Soccer Without Borders that teaches impoverished Nicaraguan girls that Americans don’t know the right word for soccer.

http://www.soccerwithoutborders.org/

One last fun detail about Granada for tonight: There are very few cars here, but a huge number of people getting around on bicycle, especially teens. More often than not, there are two people to each bicycle, and often it’s (what I presume to be) a boyfriend and girlfriend. The boy pedals the bike, and the girl sits sidesaddle on the top tube in front. No helmets, of course. How this is not an unstable invitation to death is beyond me, but there are hundreds of couples riding around like this all the time, day and night.

For those keeping score, here are the updated odds of what I am most likely to die of on this trip:

Murder: .000001%
Donkey Trampling: 6%
Bicycle Collision: 8%
Taxi Collision (pedestrian): 7%
Taxi Collision (passenger): 10% 
Self-injury while attacking fruit bat: 12%
Lake Shark: 4%
Collision with housekeeper chasing wild dog in house: 9%
Unrefrigerated eggs from outdoor market: 29%
Jogging: 14%
Mosquitos sucking literally all of my blood out of my body through my feet: 11%

 

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