Expat Life, Lagos, Nigeria, Uncategorized

Alarmed by Smoke Alarms

We spent five years living in Lagos, Nigeria. To date, I’ve barely touched on our time there. It’s a chaotic and often frustrating place to live and it’s difficult to know where to start as there are so many memories and mishaps to dust off.  As a first taster, I’m sharing one of the many (but far from the most) frustrating vignettes with you.

This is a smoke alarm.  I think it’s used for catching mosquitos.  No?

The estate electrician phoned one day to tell me that he was coming to install smoke alarms. I was confused as we already had plenty thoroughly our apartment.

Me:                        We already have smoke alarms.

Electrician:          Yes, I am coming to put smoke alarms.

Me:                        Where are you going to put them? Why are you going to put smoke                                                        alarms? What’s wrong with the ones we have?

Electrician:         Yes, I am coming to put smoke alarms – is an alarm for fire. If there is                                                 fire it make noise to warn you.

Finally after 5 minutes of utter confusion the electrician grasped that, despite my non technical background, I already knew what a smoke alarm was. He then explained that the existing ones were electric and that the new ones were battery operated. A sensible idea with the erratic power supply.

Two electricians subsequently arrived and wanted to install the alarm directly above my desk.  Their plan was to unload my heavy glass topped desk, disassemble it and move it about a meter to one side.  They eventually agreed that putting it close to the desk could also work, although I have a hunch that they would have preferred to waste half an hour moving everything out of the way and then back into place again.

The following day the phone rang. Our steward answered and informed me that a technician was coming to…..install smoke indicators. I obviously looked befuddled because he then went on to elaborate that the indicators were to indicate smoke, smoke from a fire etc etc.

I spoke to the technician and explained that his services were surplus to requirements as we already had TWO sets of smoke alarms, the original electric ones and the new battery operated ones.

Nevertheless, he arrived at the front door 10 minutes later, with a ladder, drill and assistant and insisted on coming inside to check, just in case I had mistaken some other electrical device for a smoke alarm.

As the ceilings were so high I’m not sure whether we ever discovered whether the new alarms had working batteries, or for that matter ANY batteries at all.

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