I present a new instalment in my Janitor from in Hell Series, which starts with my installation in the concierge function, continues with an epic flood, and I wish I could say it ends here, but the tragic story goes on.

I don’t hate being the janitor. I fucking hate being the janitor. I’m exceptionally unsuited for the execution of this post. I know next to nothing about maintenance, I’m not passionate about the vision of making the tenement a better place and, most of all, I panic in emergencies.

The other day my janitorship struck back at 10:30 PM, while I was sitting at my office-slash-kitchen table, watching people pretending to be surgeons dissecting a tumour on Grey’s Anatomy, and munching Oreos. On which the power went off. My mother would observe that it was surely a divine strike punishing me for eating Oreos for dinner. On which I’d retort that I’m Buddhist and fully confident that the universe doesn’t give a shit about my eating habits.

I finished my Oreos while the buffered video was still running on the laptop and then went to explore. I didn’t get farther than the corridor when I realised that the power was off, hear, hear, and since there is no god in this godless building, there was no light. The flashlight function on my phone didn’t turn out to be exactly powerful, but I managed to stalk my way in the street and confirm the worst.

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And there was (no) light

No, there was no zombie apocalypse, that wouldn’t have been so bad since I’m already half-dead and why not take it to the next level, right? The worst thing was that the outage was in my building only. Which is where the janitorial hero comes in and saves the light and WiFi. I’m kidding, of course. This was when I picked the phone and called the landlord to ask where the fuck were fuse boxes in this forsaken building.

The operation was much more complex than it sounds. Apparently, you can either be conducting a call or flashing the flashlight on the phone, not both simultaneously. Don’t tell me that I should’ve grabbed a regular flashlight. I couldn’t find it because there was no light, see? If you don’t see, nevermind, neither did I. So I grabbed a lighter and kept the flame on while operating on the fuse box, which I probably deemed a good idea. It’s not like it’s the main gas shutoff valve. Is it?

Neither the landlord’s instructions nor my description of the situation proved particularly productive. I spent an hour haunting the building and hunting fuse boxes, while burning my fingers on the lighter and exchanging profanities with the landlord. Then I decided that I.WASN’T.FUCKING.DOING.IT, gave up and returned to my flat to die of exposure, since the heating doesn’t work when there’s no power. Before settling down to die, it occurred to me that I had a candle, which I duly lit, because I needed to pee and didn’t want to miss the bowl. Yes, I know I’m a girl, but it was dark enough to miss the bathroom entirely.

I retired in the bed, wearing all I have. I googled generators, in case I survive, because the next time this happens, I want to be able to boil some bloody water at least. Then I decided I’d go the medieval way and prepared to start burning books. Then I fell asleep and dreamt of an electrician alighting from a white unicorn with a rainbow horn, chanting Let there be light and resurrecting me and the electricity alike.

In the morning, the summoned electrician arrived in a yellowish van, presumably originally white, which was in the final phase of entropy. He asked what happened. Dunno, I chattered my teeth. Life, I guess. The torch-bearer worked his magic on one of the switches, which was in the off position, though I swear it was in the on position when I left it. Okay, I don’t swear, I don’t know what I was doing. On which the power went on.

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Posted by Mara Eastern

I'm a sardonic blogger, snapper, scribbler and rhymer; a virtual space invader who indulges in cheerful negativism, morbid self-deprecation and bleak humour.

26 Comments

  1. Oh to be a fly on the wall when a crisis like this happens around you. I do know how frustrating it can be when you are clueless in a situation. Thankfully you survived to tell the story. You shed light in so many ways… 🙂

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    1. A fly on the wall? That sounds kafkaesque 😀 I’m indeed glad I survived to tell the story for your amusement (hopefully) or as a cautionary story. I wish I was more enlightened, especially when it comes to crisis management.

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      1. Crisis management is all about learning from when we stuff up. “Fly on a wall” is a way of saying wish I’d been there to see that.

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        1. Oh, I know the fly on the wall saying, I was just taking it literally…

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  2. Sounds like a Breaker switch was tripped, supposed to when too much current is drawn.

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    1. I have no idea what you’re talking about. I can only imagine…

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  3. You did take credit for this, did you not?!

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    1. Why would she not.

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      1. I deserved the credit!

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    2. Oh of course I did! I mean, I called the electrician!

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  4. I can empathize. We recently had a power outage for almost 2 full days thanks to a snow storm. It got very cold very quickly and my kids went a tad Lord of the Flies without screens and WiFi. We are in the midst of another massive winter storm again but so far, touch wood, there’s been no power outage.

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    1. A two-day outage? Wow. How did you work it out? I mean, was there hot water and heating at least? Or somewhere to make tea or heat up dinner? The Lord of the Flies comparison is probably accurate. Poor kids. Poor you!

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      1. We had hot water as the boiler works on gas. I also still had my gas hob so I could cook and boil water for tea. We did not, however, have any heating as that relies on electricity due to the thermostat and other gubbins inside the system. We did a lot of board games by candlelight, damaging our eyesight by reading by candlelight, and lots of going to bed early just to keep warm.

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        1. Oh I see, so at least you had something! It would be unimaginable otherwise. Still, it must have been extremely trying for everyone concerning. The only thing about these accidents is that one appreciates more what one has. Like power and hot water.

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  5. I’m not sure I’m allowed to say this, but: Your blog reminds me of my first (or rather, first real) (blog), in that it was fairly detailed and interesting stories about normal life, and a place to whine. Thanks for the nostalgia value.

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    1. Aw, that’s actually nice! You’re right, of course, that’s what I usually blog, and that’s actually what I tend to enjoy the most on other blogs as well.

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  6. Here’s some more comment:
    I don’t think the cleaning is done yet. Thanks for welcoming us to the tenement. Why was the electrician “smoking”? Your instincts seem pretty good as there is no notice in your story of having been alerted to duties prior to your sneaking out of your own room while eating Oreos and watching Grey’s Anatomy.

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    1. I welcome new tenants to the tenement with the words Welcome to Hell. Kidding. I do what I can in my janitorial duties, but I have a job to do besides that, so I’m not super involved. It’s a tenement for fuck’s sake, not some high-end building with a doorman and stuff.

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  7. Hilarious stuff, very nicely written. (Glad you survived the crisis :P).

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    1. Thank you for your kind comment! I’m glad you were entertained a bit!

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  8. Now that there is enough adventure for a whole Year! I hope Ella managed to keep warm?

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    1. Yes, I’m having more adventures than I’d like! Ella was okay, the poor thing was ignorant of the calamity, though she did wonder why the radiator she sleeps on wasn’t heating…

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  9. […] the last week’s power outage, I’ve been entirely enthralled with manifestations of light. Light is good, especially […]

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