I just discovered a cool new blog called Liuzhou Laowai (via danwei.org). I especially related to his story about how he got his power switched back on through guanxi. It reminded me of how I got my Chinese credit card, and also of the time I also had my power shut off myself (sort of).
The problem is that a lot of the utility companies in Shanghai are way too nice. One time I forgot to pay my gas bill or my water bill, and I didn’t even realize it until the next bill came. It charged me for both months. Realizing I had neglected to pay the previous month, I looked for a late fee. There was none.
Naturally, I took this as a loud and clear I can pay my bills whenever the hell I get around to it! I became very lax about paying.
Pretty soon I found out that the power company don’t play that game. When you’re late paying they send you a reminder, and if you still don’t pay, they send someone over with a notice that they’re shutting off your power in three days if you don’t pay up.
When I got that notice, I renounced my derelict ways and immediately headed over to the office to offer my monetary contrition. They reassured me that since I paid in time my power would not be shut off. I was relieved.
Day three came around. It was a Saturday. I was taking a morning shower, when the water suddenly went cold. This is not so strange, because the gas water heater for that shower is an old capricious bastard. I was used to wrestling with the thing every time I showered, dodging alternating icy and scalding blasts in my desperate dance to get clean. This time, however, the water didn’t get hot again as it usually did. Wouldn’t you know it — I was all soaped up, and now if I wanted to rinse off I had to use ice water to do it.
I got out of the shower all soapy and went to the breakers. They were all on. This could only mean one thing: they shut off my power!
I was forced to rinse off with ice water.
I figured whoever had just shut off the power was still in the building, so if I got dressed quickly, I could catch him and coax him into turning it back on. As soon as I got out the front door I saw a guy fiddling with the electricity meters. It turned out the whole buildings’ meters were decrepit and needed to be replaced, so we were all experiencing about 20 minutes of no power while the meters got swapped. My power was back on shortly.
Personal note: I have successfully moved into my new place, but the wireless network isn’t ready yet, so I still don’t have internet access at home yet.