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Power surge

Camille Collins

Over and over and over this is all I hear. It would appear that this noise means that my uninterruptable power supply is currently being interrupted.

Click-clack, click-clack.

Click-clack, click-clack, click-clack

click-clack

click-clack

click-clack, click-clack, click-clack.

Either that or I am receiving Morse code.

Click-clack

This had been happening all morning at the office. Intermittently, and with no apparent reason, I would hear this click-clack noise and light bulbs would dim and blaze accordingly. I was sort of able to deduce that there was something screwy with the power.

During this time, the building which houses Mexico Connect was being rewired as the electric bills had gone through the roof. The Ingeniero (pronounced een-hen-ee-AIR-o) or Engineer, believed it was due to a "leak" somewhere between the meter and the breaker box, a theory he was trying hard to prove.

I stepped outside to speak with the Ingeniero who, after evaluating the situation and studying the click-clack noises, determined that indeed something was wrong. I asked him if these little surges could harm the equipment.

click-clack

He said it was a distinct possibility.

I began to add up what it would cost to replace my powerbook, a couple of printers, desktop computers, the fax... I asked what he thought I should do about the problem. He felt someone might have tapped in to the power lines illegally, but suggested we contact the CFE ( Comision Federal de Electricidad) the national power company, and have them check it out, so I did.

The following is a true account of the day's events.

CFE shows up, rings the doorbell.

Camille

Quien? (Who is it?)

CFE

CFE

 

I open the door.

 

CFE

We're gonna cut your power off for a bit here and check out your meter.

Camille

When?

POP!

 

CFE

Oh, we just did. You didn't have anything important plugged in did you?

Camille

Stereo, computers, printers - nah, not really!

CFE

Oh.

They (there's two of them you see) remove the electric meters and whip out something I take to be a voltage meter and proceed to check the voltage.

Camille

It's fluctuating intermittently so you might want to hold it there for a b...

CFE

Lady, we know what we're doing.

They have now successfully completed their check of both meters in less than 15 seconds, during which I hear no click-clack.

CFE

No fluctuation here.

Camille

You didn't keep your meter thingy there long enough.

CFE

Lady, we know what we're doing.

Camille

Yeah, but...

CFE

OK, let's check inside.

Camille

OK, but...

CFE

Lady!

They opened the Master Breaker box - you know, the one with the big handle that shuts EVERYTHING down, and begin to study it. Then they opened the circuit breaker box, you know, the one with all the little fuses in it, telling me the whole time that their responsibility really ends at the meter but they'll do me this one favor.

Their conclusions were as follows:

CFE You don't got a neutral here that I can see so that's part of the problem.

Camille

What's the white wire for?

p

CFE

What white wire?

Camille

THAT white wire

CFE

Oh, that's a neutral

Camille

Uh-huh

CFE

Well, I think its the wiring inside your building.

click-clack, click-clack

Camille

Did you hear that?

CFE

What?

click-clack

Camille

That!

CFE

Yeah, what about it?

Camille

That's been happening all morning!

CFE

Yeah, then its sure to be the wiring inside the building, which has nothing to do with us. You need to call an electrician, maybe even an electrical engineer.

Camille

BUT HE WAS JUST HERE!

CFE

Maybe you should get a better one then, if he can't fix it.

>

When I lived here many, many years ago the CFE was not quite as efficient as it is today. We would sometimes spend several days without electricity while waiting for them to get around to fixing the problem.

Now, even though they are the company with the second largest number of complaints at the better business bureau ( Procuraduría Federal del Consumidor or ProFeCo), they have improved their service tremendously. This is why I try to go easy on them and these gentlemen were truly doing their best to be helpful.

Camille

Are you sure it's not the guys welding up the street?

CFE

Pretty sure.

Camille

Well, could you check on your way out anyway?

CFE

Yeah, but even if they are it wouldn't be affecting you because you're too far down the street. Besides, I know for a fact it's not an outside problem, it's an inside problem. You probably need to rewire your office.

Camille

It's being done.

CFE

Tell 'em to put a ground in because you don't have a ground.

Camille

It's right behind you.

CFE

Oh... OK, but it's not properly installed

Camille

Yeah it is...

CFE

Well it might still have problems 'cause it can get wet and stuff

Camille

Huh?

click-clack, click-clack, click-clack

Frustrated beyond belief, I invited a friend to join me on a casual walk around the block to see if we could find the culprits.

Friend

 

What are we looking for?

Camille

Anything that looks like it shouldn't be hanging from an electrical line.

Friend

Like those two little wires there?

He points to two little wires, one red one black, hanging from a power line. Power lines aren't insulated here, why I do not know. Therefore, it is not uncommon for people who need a little power, to do an impromptu installation like the one my friend was admiring.

We followed the two little wires inside to a house that was being remodeled. The man in charge, a gentleman I judged to be in his early fifties, came down from the roof asking if he could help us. After I explained the problem he quickly had someone take the wires off the line they were using and switch them to another line right below it. He asked me to come back if I still had problems, telling me he could always try another power line. After all, there are four of them.

We walked back toward my office in silence, each lost deep in thought. While my firend marveled at native ingenuity, I wondered who was hearing the click-clack now.

Published or Updated on: June 1, 1998 by Camille Collins © 1998
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