– St Albans, Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand


A week later, the security fence on the boundary of our earthquake damaged property is open, blocking the entire public footpath and verge, and allowing car access to our property.
Our neighbour’s property had been demolished, and was in the process of being rebuilt. The builders had plugged their extension cord into our builder’s power box.
I catch the eye of a builder, and point at the power box.
“Is that your electrical cord?” I ask.
“Yes” the builder replied.
“Would you please remove it from our property and close our security fence?” I asked.
He came over and started to wind up the cord.
“Your neighbour said you would be ok with us using your power” he said.
“I would, if I had been asked” I replied.
“We didn’t know how to contact you” he said.
I pointed at the builder’s sign on the security fence and the phone number. He looks at the number, then looks at me. There is a little silence. The phone number is 20cm high.
“Our neighbour has our contact details” I said.
“We didn’t think it would be a problem. We have been working on a play centre and when we asked the neighbour they said it was fine for us to use their power”. he said.
” We would be fine with you using the power if we had been asked” I stated.
“I totally get where you are coming from” he said. “All we are trying to do is get people back into their homes as fast as we can. Your neighbour said you were really nice and wouldn’t mind”.
“I wouldn’t mind, if I were asked.” The broken record technique might work yet.
“We have been using this power for months” he said. “In another 20 minutes we would have been done for the day and you wouldn’t have known”.
“And yet here I am”. I said “Waiting to be asked”.
“Yes, I get that, but you seem to be taking an extreme position”, he said.
“It is hardly an extreme position to ask you to contact us before you use our power, and to keep our security fence closed .” I said.
“You are not being nice” he said.
“I am being nice. Although you have broken and entered my property and stolen my power I have not called the police.” I looked at him. “If you ask, you can use my power. I pay for it you know.”
“I don’t know why anyone would live in a dump like Christchurch” he pouted.
I had won, and I should have stopped. I will blame the adrenalin and the fight response within which I seem to be permanently locked.
“You live here, so you would know why” I said, knowing that I should have walked away when he had done as I had asked.
When friends found themselves acting irrationally like this, they blamed earthquake brain. I blame orange cone range.
Orange cone rage. Cones placed on the road barring every exit. Cones marking a safe route across roads would expose pedestrians to dangerous traffic. Cones everywhere, on top of bus shelters, lying in streams, marking dangerous holes, slight bumps in pavements, and sometimes nothing at all. Trucks and other heavy machinery surrounded by cones, blocking your driveway, slowing traffic to standstill.
Courtesy costs nothing. I call the builder’s project manager.
“To whom did you speak?” she asked. I give the builders name.
“There was no need for the builders to use your power” she said “They have a generator on site, and are getting a builder’s power box in a week. They are just too lazy to start the generator”.
“I don’t mind them using the power.” I said “I mind not being asked. I mind our security being breached and that pedestrians can’t safely use the footpath. You are welcome to use the power if you wish, provided the security fence is closed. Your builders were climbing our fence from your scaffolding to access the power anyway, so the fence does not need to be opened”.
“There is no need” she said. “Thank you for your call”.
A friend said “Why did you bother?”.
I bother because it is the right thing to do.

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