Let’s start by explaining the acronyms that might crop up in subsequent paragraphs:

ABP – Alcoholic Beverage Provider (and you thought only techies have providers, eh?)
CHCapital Hotel, the biggest hotel in Lilongwe, and a popular spot for a quiet drink. Since I live just across the street, you’ll sometimes hear me say, “I’m going to the neighbours.”
Drinkage – How much drink you can squeeze out of a Kwacha, the local currency in Malawi, or any currency for that matter
DROANDrive Only At Night, a vehicle you only drive at night partly because you’re afraid of the traffic cops but mostly because it’s the sort of wheels you don’t want to be associated with during the light of day
ESCOMThe Electricity Supply Commission of Malawi, the only supplier of electricity in Malawi
Flash Disk Humana - a talisman or amulet believed to possess potent charms that grant wealth or provide some form of protection to the bearer, and so own
MSD – The Minimum Staggering Distance, that is the walking, …er, the staggering distance between where you live and the nearest ABP
SDI – Strategic Drinking Initiative which can be applied in various ways. For example, some people have the urge to visit the bathroom only when it’s their turn to throw a round while. In order to maximize their drinkage, others drink  at the cheap ABPs in the early part of the evenings before graduating onto the expensive ones
SDRSpecial Drinking Rights allowing you to drink and pay at a later date.

Now you should have no problems following the rumblings that follow.

Colleagues, acquaintances and even friends have often wondered why I frequent the CH. The more presumptuous have even conjured their own theories explaining the phenomenon. Not conspiracy theories, mind you, but theories or the same.

For instance, I’ve heard it rumoured that because I don’t own a car, not even a DROAN, I make sure I only frequent ABPs that are within my MSD. There could be some uncomfortable truth in that but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

I’ve also heard it loudly whispered that I frequent CH because, in the spirit of good neighbourliness, the CH and I have drawn up bilateral agreements granting me SDRs that I sort out at the end of each month.

What utter rubbish! Granted I’ve never managed to stretch to a full month the wage deemed by my employers as being fair compensation for my buckets of sweat. But even I can afford a couple of drinks between two new moons, can’t I?

Those who know me well know that I love listening to people converse. That’s the main reason I like drinking at quiet places such as my neighbours’. There conversation doesn’t get drowned out by loud music. As you know, cheap ABPs and non-shouted conversation don’t really, shall we say, drink from the same glass.

My age is also a factor in my choice of where I drink. Many rains have gone by since I first announced my arrival into this world with a loud cry. I therefore, er, steer clear of ABPs that cater to a young clientele. I don’t enjoy being at drinking joints where immediately I show up, the average age of the patrons present doubles, triples, or whatever.

I’m also a very rarely sited species where barbers are concerned. I’ll normally let my hair grow until it becomes too difficult to comb. So being one who normally avoids attention, I tend to keep away from places where the hair length of the male patrons is practically zero.

Talking of hair length, I’ve never understood the young men’s obsession with hairlessness. Why the craving for baldness when some of them need only wait a few years for it to come to them naturally? In any case, some of them don’t even have the heads for it.

By the way, have you ever wondered whether the other normally bushy parts of their anatomies are as bald as their unnaturally shiny heads? Or are such prime real estates maintained in natural growth? I wouldn’t be surprised because I’ve heard it said that lots of men pursue environmentally friendly policies when it comes to places in the nether regions.

Me, I need a good mop on my head. How else do I reduce the erosion of whatever little intelligence still remains in my head thereby accelerate the onset of senility?

Ok. Ok. Let me confess. My keeping my hair unfashionably long isn’t a nod to the greens (nor, by the way, is my lack of a car). I can also confirm here that it isn’t part of a charm for keeping my job, as some people have intimated. If it were that, wouldn’t I’ve resorted to carrying an inconspicuous flash disk humana somewhere on my person or even planting one in one of my cluttered office desk drawers? 

The reason I wear my hair long is in fact very simple. Escom.

Yes, it’s Escom that put me off going to barber shops. You see any barber shop worth its cut, uses electric hair clippers. Yet  Escom’s power supply is notoriously erratic. It’s also prone to surges. Now imagine being at the other end of an electric shaver during one such surge. Mmm! Not me, thank you. I’m definitely not overly fond of risking my head getting barbequed in aid of a fashionable haircut. As it is I’ve seen enough electronic equipment charred to uselessness because of such surges.

By the way, Escoms’ power has become so erratic there’re e-mails going around claiming Escom’s new slogan is Here to Today, There Tomorrow.

Talking of black outs, don’t you think Escom has double standards? When there’s a “blackout” in the payment of your electricity bill, it promptly charges interest and embarrasses you by disconnecting its erratic supply on a Friday afternoon. The result is that even if you’ve got money, you can’t get reconnected until the following Monday. Not that it makes much difference, mind.

Why shouldn’t you as a consumer have recourse to blacking power is not “Here Today” at very inconvenient times?

Imagine you’ve finally managed to bring her home. The wine is chilling in the fridge. The two of you are expressing your horizontal intentions by dancing to some real slow numbers coming out of your Hi-Fi. As the mood approaches the point of no return…cut!

How much should Escom compensate you for the lost opportunity? Would 20% of your monthly bill be fair?

Suppose you’ve at last managed to borrow that must-see new movie on SD DVD or Blu-Ray disc and have invited your friends to come and watch it with you. After all, there are some bragging rights at stake here. None of them has a 50” 1080p plasma screen and their home theater setups are a miserly 5.1. Yours is 7.1!

In any case, drinks are flowing as some steaks sizzle on your electric grill. Then…cut!

Factoring in the partly cooked steaks, the sweating beers in the now warm fridge, and the interrupted movie which you’ve to return the following morning, to say nothing of the lost face, would it be unfair if you held back 60% of your monthly bill in compensation?

Now consider this. Your prospective clients are in the boardroom. Your electronic presentation is going great guns. You can tell because your boss is furtively smiling some encouragement at you. But before you can bring your presentation to its climax…cut!

How much should Escom cough for the loss of business? And how much for the embarrassment?

How about this? You’ve a scoop and your editor is waiting for the story before he can put the paper to bed. You’re frantically typing away on your non-UPSed computer. Because of the excitement, you don’t remember to save. You’re about to finish typing when…cut!

What amount of money can compensate you for the berating you’ll get from your editor for failing to file the story?

Man, there are several scenarios you can think of: partly charged cell phone and laptop batteries (some of which have memories which means the next time you charge them they only get charged to the extent that they were previously charged), spoilt food, lost business opportunities, unfashionable hair styles, etcetera, etcetera.

In general, by what percentage should Escom be decreasing the bills of its customers for each second of power cut? Or how much?

But better still, can’t Escom give us power that’s free of blackouts, brownouts and those surges that are so fatal to electronic equipment.

I’ve a personal interest in the improvement of Escom’s power supply, you see. It would enable me gain the confidence to be visiting barbers more frequently.

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    Children, too, can have profound thoughts
    The Three Little Hills (Phiris)