Challenge: Keeping the Electricity On

Sometimes living in another country is really great, like when I get to eat delicious foods and see fun things and not have to face reality or responsibilities.



Sometimes it’s not so great, like when I start to realize that not being able to read signs and menus is really annoying. Or when I can’t figure out why my pre-paid phone credit has expired, even though I only bought it a week ago.

Or especially when I come home from a week and a half away to find that the electricity has been shut off.

Obviously, my electricity could have been shut off back home, as well, but it never was. Why? Because I knew what the electricity bills looked like and I always always always paid them on time. I was a VRP (Very Responsible Person).

That was before I moved to Thailand.

I had a flight from Chiang Mai to Bangkok at 5:40 in the evening on Friday night. I was so excited to come home to my own bed, my own bathroom, all of my clothes and internet and food and couch and–it was going to be awesome!

Cue ominous music. Duh duh duuuuuh. So hopeful. So pretty.* So, so stupid.

*Shut it, people!

So, I get my bags, catch the airport train home (and the airport train station at Rajaprarop is another rant altogether), and trudge home with everything because I can’t catch a cab, but it’s okay because I will be home in a few minutes and I will take a shower and get some food and sit on my ass all night and it is going to be awesome, in bold.

I got my mail out of the mailbox and was disappointed because it was all junk mail. Isn’t that the worst? You come home from a long trip and all you have is junk mail. What a bummer.

Nobody loves me!*

*Actually, I’m exaggerating for literary effect, because I did have a package at the front desk from my lovely and amazing friend, Jess. Thanks, Jess!

I opened my front door and thought everything was fine at first, and then I noticed that, um, it seemed the electricity wasn’t working. I checked the fridge and it was warm. Really warm. And lights weren’t coming on. Yeah the electricity was definitely off. Um?

Hopefully, I thought maybe all of the units’ electricity wasn’t working. I peeked over the balcony and realized, nope, it was just me. At this point, I started to panic. I mean, the people in my condo building don’t speak much, if any English, and I don’t speak much, if any, Thai. I had no idea who actually supplies electricity to the people of Bangkok, as I’d just assumed it was some kind of magical wizardry, and I was pretty sure I was going to be electricity-less for the rest of my life.

I am nothing if not dramatic.

After a bit of a freak out, I called Good Buddy Josh, who told me to go over to his apartment, right down the street from me, even though he and Brock weren’t there. I started to resentfully (not at Josh–at my stupid situation) and tearfully pack a backpack and then decided to go through my junk mail.

I started to toss out a couple of envelopes, but stopped. I looked at the logo in the corner of one of the envelopes. I looked a little closer. It sure looked like a building with electricity shooting out of it. I opened it, already knowing what it would be. It was definitely an electricity bill.

Son of a bitch!

So, turns out what I thought was junk mail that I had been throwing out was actually my electricity bill. I had been wondering how I could live in a place for three months and not get a bill, but I figured I’d misunderstood something when I was signing the lease. More optimistically, I had been hoping that the landlord was actually paying the bill and letting me off easy.

I spent the night at Brock and Josh’s, then came back over in the morning to deal with the electricity business. I went to the agent in my building who had rented me the place back in August and explained what had happened.

I started waving my arms around. “No lights! Have…” I didn’t know the word for ‘bill’. “No lights! Paper…”

She looked at the bill and started laughing. “You don’t have electricity?”


She then dragged me over to the front desk, still laughing, and told the people at the front desk what had happened. They started laughing, too.

“Megan, you never paid a bill?”


“But you have to pay the bill!” Laughter.

“Now know! I don’t understand! I think…uh…don’t understand. Now understand!” My Thai isn’t so great, and apparently I always speak in exclamations.

Then they laughed because my electricity bill was so low and obviously I was an incredible cheapskate who only turned on the air conditioner when I slept. Which is true, that’s what I do.

“But, Megan, you can turn on the air conditioner when you’re not sleeping, too!”

“Yes! Can!”

Megan: Providing hours of amusement for Thai people since 2010.*

*With the fantastic Dani from Girl Scott Cookies. She’s hilarious, and good people, on top of it.

Turns out the electric company is completely closed on the weekend, which is superb customer service because who really needs the electric company on the weekend? Only slightly mentally fragile farang, like me!  I was about ready for another panic, when they told me there was a way, somehow, for the condo building to magically supply me with electricity if I threw some money at them. So I threw some money at them, and then I learned my third valuable lesson of the weekend, which was: 15 minutes in Thailand = 3 hours.

So, 3 hours later, I magically got my electricity back, and I could return to being a real person with access to the internet.

Because how do you know you’re alive if you can’t get on the intertubes?

You don’t, that’s how.

Final Score:

Keeping the Electricity On: 0   Megan: 1

I suppose this is a bit premature, as the agent at my building told me she would pay the bill for me on Monday (today), so fingers crossed I have electricity for the rest of the day! Update: It’s now afternoon and the electricity is still on! Hooray!

UPDATE 2: So, we left the apartment to get groceries for dinner at about 5:15 on Monday evening. I saw the agent, who gave me a receipt for my bill and reminded me about 25 times that I had to pay the bill (dumb white person), and made sure the electricity was still on, which it was. We went to the grocery store and came home at 6:03…and guess what? THE ELECTRICITY WAS OFF AGAIN, and the people in the office leave exactly at 6:00. I started to have a serious freak out at that point, and we had to go downstairs for me to try to speak Thai over the phone to the guy who didn’t speak a damn word of English. It was painful, but I managed to convey both my apartment number and the fact that I didn’t have electricity before he hung up on me. I then sat morosely in my apartment, staring off into space and trying to get internet on my Kindle because THAT IS WHAT I NEEDED RIGHT THEN, while Jason went to get dinner, and in the next 10 minutes, the electricity was back on. I NEED TO GET OFF THE EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER, BANGKOK. PLEASE LEAVE THE ELECTRICITY ON NOW. I’M SORRY FOR WHATEVER I DID TO MAKE YOU ANGRY.

Lessons learned–

Lesson 1: Thailand doesn’t mess around with shutting your electricity off. I mean, it was only three months, people!

Lesson 2: Now I know what electricity bills look like!

Lesson 3: 15 minutes= 3 hours

Lesson 4: Electricity is powered by money, not magical wizardry. Who knew?! WAIT! Maybe it’s magical wizardry powered by money! Food for thought, people, that’s what you come here for!

UPDATE Lesson 5: Even money doesn’t help the electricity and I’m kind of on the edge of a breakdown here…



Filed under Living Abroad, Special Challenge, Thai, Thailand

8 responses to “Challenge: Keeping the Electricity On

  1. Megan, good to see you’re not in the dark anymore. The scooter…I’m sure I’m more than double your age and my Dad still doesn’t know I’m riding, on the back of one.

    I’m glad I’m not the one dealing with any utility departments here …we’re in a hotel.

    Happy Loy Kratong!

  2. Blushing is not good in this heat!

    Thank you for the snapitos, and hooray for electricity!

  3. Megan…my previous comment would have to make it into the top ten of my most boring…what can I say! I’m really tired :(

  4. Jess

    I love your posts. Thank you for the kind words. You know flattery will get you anywhere with me.

    More packages to come!

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