Home Opinion and Features Disconnected and frustrated

Disconnected and frustrated

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Picture: Danie van der Lith

THERE are few things as deflating, frustrating and infuriating as having your trusty laptop just suddenly die on you.

You switch it off at night, after a hard day’s work and the next morning it’s just dead as a dodo. This happened to me recently.

Fortunately, the company I work for provided a laptop I could use to do my job. This came in handy; however, the new laptop presented me with a small problem … I could not connect it to the monitor I was using. In layman’s terms, the (VGA) cable from the monitor could not plug into the (HDMI port) laptop – this means I was forced to squint at the relatively tiny laptop screen to edit documents and, much worse, lay out pages for the Friday newspaper.

I needed to find an adaptor, something that would help me connect the monitor to the laptop.

The first store I visited had exactly what I was looking for. But at a price tag of R600, I almost ran out of the shop screaming. However, just a few doors away, the assistant at another store said their VGA to HDMI adapter cost only R125.

Relieved, I reached for my wallet and asked if I could have one.

The young man behind the counter did a half-turn, looked at the merchandise behind him and turned back smiling apologetically – you can see that people are smiling behind masks, you just have to look at their eyes.

“Oh dear, sorry sir,” he said. “We seem to be out of stock of that particular item at the moment. But we are expecting a delivery tomorrow. The truck gets here at about 2pm, but sometimes there are delays. But if you come in at around 3pm, the delivery will have arrived and I am sure we’ll have one of those connectors for you.”

I thanked him and left. It frustrated me that I would have to work on the tiny screen again, but at least I knew where I could find the adapter I needed to make my life easier.

However, as things happen, time flew by and a week went by before I could get back to the store to buy the adapter. I walked into the store and another young man was behind the counter. I told him what I was looking for as he listened intently.

He then did a half-turn, looked at the merchandise behind him and turned back smiling apologetically.

“Oh dear, sorry sir,” this young man said. “We seem to be out of stock of that particular item at the moment. But we are expecting a delivery tomorrow. The truck gets here at about 2pm, but sometimes there are delays. But if you come in at around 3pm, the delivery will have arrived and I am sure we’ll have one of those connectors for you.”

I kicked myself as I left the store … Had I just remembered to come in earlier in the week, I would have had the adapter I needed already.

Sadly for me life happened again, and again it took a week for me to get back to the store. This time the first assistant was back at his post. I explained what I was looking for, and guess what …

He listened to me, did the same half-turn, looked at the merchandise behind him and turned back smiling apologetically.

“Oh dear, sorry sir. We seem to be out of stock of that particular item at the moment. But we are expecting a delivery tomorrow. The truck gets here at about 2pm, but sometimes there are delays. But if you come in at around 3pm, the delivery will have arrived and I am sure we’ll have one of those connectors for you.”

Amusement and frustration clashed in my head. I thanked him and left the store. Then when I got home, I went online and found the item that I was looking for – it was only R99. A week later the package arrived. I plugged the adapter in and presto, my problem was solved.

At the very start of this piece I said that there are few things as deflating, frustrating and infuriating as having your trusty laptop just suddenly die on you one day.

Some of those deflating, frustrating and infuriating things I was referring to is not having water in your taps, having a flooded subway for almost a month after a storm happened, and to have to carefully decide which roads to use to get to your destination because almost every road in your city is severely pot-holed.

When I was at primary school, I remember Mr Peterson, our teacher trying to explain to us what a pothole was. I remember him gesticulating, trying to show the shape and how deep these “potholes” were, but I didn’t have a clue what he was speaking about. I kept wondering why people would put pots in the street – so foreign was the concept to me … this happened well over 40 years ago.

I was at college, many years later, when I saw my first pothole and that’s when Mr Peterson’s lesson sunk in. Only then did I get what he was trying to teach us.

I try to imagine a teacher these days trying to explain to a class of primary school children what a road without potholes looks like … good luck to them.

And yet, with our city’s infrastructure crumbling around our ears, we have spokespeople, officials and councillors singing from the same hymn sheet, telling us the same old stories of how there is a plan to set things right very soon, but we just have to be a bit patient.

Look, I admit that I do not know what is happening behind the scenes. I do not know what struggles and issues and battles are being fought in the corridors of power at municipalities in this country. But what I do know is that – looking at social media, and listening to conversations of people I know and strangers I sometimes chat with – people are frustrated, angry and impatient with our overgrown sidewalks, constantly-leaking pipes, potholes and empty taps.

Recently some residents were fuming because the city’s sanitation department was not doing refuse removal because it was raining. I actually heard someone – a pensioner – call these men “sugar babies”, which was a terrible insult when I was at primary school.

Other residents in a few of our city’s suburbs have already started cleaning up, filling potholes and patrolling at night for themselves because those whose job it is to do these things seem to either be incapable, incapacitated or unwilling to do the hard, but necessary work.

I think that at this stage people’s biggest frustration is that they can’t buy smooth roads, and a reliable supply of clean water from some online store to restore a connection to something that resembles a normal, functioning city again.