“Buzz, buzz, buzz,” my phone rang. It was late afternoon and I’d just returned to the hotel I was staying in while in Johannesburg. I pulled my phone out of my pocket, checked the Caller Id: it was Brad. I was briefly tempted not to answer. I often don’t answer my phone; after all, it’s there for my convenience, not everyone else’s. But this time, I thumbed the Accept icon and put the phone up to my ear.
“Hey dude, how are you doing?”
“Hi.” Brad answered. “Listen, just quickly, I’m stuck in traffic outside your apartment, surrounded by SAPS, the Fire Department, Netcare 911 and Metro Ambulances. They’ve shut the roads down. Maybe you want to check with Miki, make sure everything’s OK with her!”
I thought for a second. We were regularly being load shedded, involuntarily subjected to darkness and power outages as Eskom struggled to maintain the integrity of the national grid. I checked the time. It was 16:48. We usually get turned off at either 16:00, or 18:00, on the hour. With each power outage the lifts would immediately shut down, trapping whomever was inside in the dark for at least two hours. I’ve notified the rest of the Body Corporate that this constitutes a major liability on our part. Miki had just the previous Saturday escaped being trapped in the lift by less than thirty seconds. For Miki, being trapped in the lift would most likely trigger an acute asthma attack, and based on her history, could prove fatal for her. I’ve given her instructions that should she get stuck in the lift, and suffer an asthma attack, she must immediately contact the Fire Department and declare an emergency. They are legally entitled, equipped and trained to extricate her as quickly as possible, even – especially – if it involves breaking through every door on every floor, and forcing the lift open.
“Thanks, will do,” I responded, “cheers.”
I hesitated for a few moments before dialing Miki’s number. If I called her, and everything was OK, she would be convinced I was spying on her. On the other hand, if I didn’t call, and there was a problem, I’d be devastated. I had to know, either way, sooner or later.
I opted for sooner, rather than later, and dialed her number. No answer on the first call. No answer on the second call. No answer on the third call. I sent her a quick text message: What’s up? No reply.
Images flashed through my mind: Miki lying unconscious, in a cramped dark lift, struggling to breathe; firefighters smashing their way up the building, eventually prying open the lift doors; paramedics attempting to resuscitate Miki. I’ve been there, done that, I could picture it clearly.
Finally, on the fourth call she answered.
“Hey sweetie, is everything OK?” I asked.
“Think so. Why?” she asked.
“Well, there’re SAPS, the Fire Department and ambulances all around the building. Are you OK?”
“Oh God. How do you know?” She sounded shocked.
“Brad’s stuck in traffic downstairs. He said the roads are closed off and emergency services are all over the place.”
“I knew it. I knew you had someone spying on me,” she said accusatorily, 7’teen creeping into her voice. “I just knew it. I told you I knew. I told you not to have anyone watch me.”
The conversation was going about as well as I expected it could. But, I was relieved; at least I knew she was OK.
“No one is spying on you. Brad was on his way home. He drives past the building. He was looking out for you.” I was trying to keep my voice light, defuse her emotions.
“You’re freaking my head.” Miki’s voice was filled with mild hysteria. “7’teen is screaming inside my head. She says she knew it all along, this just proves she was right. Oh God, my head, it’s spinning. 7’teen wants out, she wants to shout at you. I’m trying to keep her in, keep her calm.”
“OK, well, look, I didn’t mean to upset you, or 7’teen. No one is spying on you. But people do care about you, and there are people who are concerned about you, and are looking out for you.” I said calmly.
“Listen sweetie, I’m glad you’re OK. I’ll speak to you later. Love you.” I waited for her to say goodbye and then thumbed the Disconnect icon. Awesome!