A few posts ago I commented on how well-built German houses are. So I suppose it was inevitable that just a few days later something would go wrong in our sturdy German house. We had a strange powercut this morning. Strange because about one third of the sockets and lights still worked. None of the fuses were tripped and there didn’t seem to be any logic behind which parts of house still had power and which did not. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong so I called the 24 hour number of an electrician I had googled. The 24 hour number was turned off. Ariane asked me if it could be something to do with our electricity provider – obviously not (because the “electricty pipe into the house”, as I explained to her, either works or it doesn’t).
I called another sparky and left a message on the answer machine. Turns out he used to be a neighbour of ours and Ariane reckoned he liked us. This was good news, because the reputation that all tradesmen have in Germany is not that far from the English cliche. They might be able to do the job, but they never have time and are never friendly.
I had to leave for Leipzig and couldn’t do anything else anyway. We connected a few extension leads to each other and strung them across a couple of rooms from the sockets which were working. That way we could restore power to the absolutely essential stuff – the freezer and the internet. Ariane could work from home and wait for the electrician to get in touch.
It turns out that it was in fact the “electricity pipe into the house” which was broken and our provider was busy sorting the situation out. Apparently a very friendly engineer knocked on the door and told Ariane that they had put in a temporary solution but the power would be down from 3pm to 4pm when they fixed it properly. He also kindly suggested parking on the street because otherwise cars might be blocked in later when they dug up the cable.
At the same time that this was happening, the chap with the 24 hour hotline called me back and apologised profusely for not being available. He had received lots of calls but was aware that it was ENBW so had texted me. I hadn’t seen the text because I was driving so assumed that he couldn’t be bothered.
It’s only two in the afternoon, but today has already proven to be a sobering experience. First I exposed my utter uselessness to Ariane by confidently swatting away her (absolutely correct) diagnosis. Then everything I had assumed about tradesmen in general – unfriendly, too busy, unhelpful – had been turned on it’s head by the friendly text from the electrician. And finally, and this hurts most, one of our utility providers turned out to be quick, well-organised and courteous. I have always maintained that part of being a utility provider is having an awful service, no matter where they are in the world. My entire “Weltanschauung” is crumbling like a poorly-built 1960s pre-fab construction.
I am in Leipzig for the next two days and I will be hunting out cliches and stereotypes so normal service can be resumed.