Thursday, 21 February 2008

When The Lights Go Out

Scarf's 21st birthday was one the highlights of my trip, and I felt very lucky to be there after the near misses with my passport. As well as being my housemate, she is one of my two very best friends, and I would have regretted not sharing her coming of age with her, despite the fact that it made feel seriously over the hill.

Her birthday was on the Wednesday we arrived in CT from Jozi, and the official party was on the Friday night at Kelvin Grove. Kelvin is a rather posh private club which rents out its facilities to its members as well as to organisations like schools for their Matric Dances. The theme was Formal Wear, Funky Hair, and everyone went all out. The guys sported full suits; the girls were decked out in cocktail or evening dresses, and everyone bar none had a spectacular coiffe of some sort. Some of the best included Eyes and Scarf in their matching pink wigs - his an afro and hers a beehive to rival Marge Simpson's, Mini-Me in a super curly blonde number - think Marilyn Monroe struck by lightning - and Scarf's brother in neon green judge's ringlets.

All was going splendidly by about 8:30pm. Guests had been greeted and photographed, champagne was flowing and the speeches were about to begin. After a short introduction from the MC, Scarf's nearest and dearest got up to congratulate her on becoming an adult, show embarrassing pictures and tell the stories she'd been trying to keep from her parents for years (including her elder sister dishing about how she started going to one of Cape Town's most notorious rave clubs at age 14 - the parentals just loved that one). Just as it was announced that supper would be served, the lights went out. In the first moments of darkness, everyone gave the Third World the benefit of the doubt, and thought that perhaps something had tripped the power. But no, of course not - that moment of naivete was fleeting. It was a power cut. Load shedding, obviously...or so we thought. Everyone lined up for the lasgane buffet, and while we sat in candle light eating our dinner, it emerged through calls and texts to family members that it was not regular load shedding that had disrupted our night. Rather, it was a full scale power failure across the entire southern suburbs of Cape Town - more than half the city was plunged into darkness. We spent some time trying to work out whether this was better or worse than load shedding. Better because at least we didn't feel like we were specifically targeted, but seriously.... going from intermittent power cuts to one ginormous outage affecting half the city? You think the US has problems.... we're regressing to caveman times here.

In the most touching moment of the evening, Scarf's 80 year old granny got up to play the piano as background music while everyone ate dinner. At one point Scarf came over and said to me, so how long do you think this is going to last? Not long, I reassured her, crossing my fingers behind my back. I told her I was sure they'd fix it soon - after all, they couldn't leave the whole of Cape Town powerless all night, could they? Knowing all the while that they not only could, but their general incompetence would ensure they almost definitely would.

After dinner I gave my speech, at the end of which I asked everybody to stand and raise their glasses in a sarky toast to Eishcom and the power of the third world. At least this gave everyone the opportunity to all jeer and sneer in unison - it was a grand moment: the little people against the baboons. Thereafter, we all milled around chatting and waiting for the power to come back on - but it never did.

Scarf's 21st was one of the most memorable I've been to, but not just for the power failure. Because there was no music and therefore no dancing (a couple of people attempted a waltz to the piano music, but it never took off), everyone turned instead to the only other option available for entertainment - conversation. As there was no crazy, alcohol-fulled gyrating, people drank at a slower pace and spent time floating from group to group, catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. Nobody even thought about leaving. In short, it was the most social birthday party we'd ever been to, and was actually declared by everyone all the more successful for it.

So thanks Eishcom... you tried your damnedest to fuck things up, but you know what? The joke was on you this time. Eish.


The Divine Miss M said...

That is so true, you forget how much loud music actually makes you anti social!

I'm glad that the party was such a success :)

The Divine Miss M said...

That is so true, you forget how much loud music actually makes you anti social!

I'm glad that the party was such a success :)

sweets said...

eish... met ys ja ;)

oh well it is what it is, stupid venue should have had generators tho...

sounds like a great party!