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December 10, 2009

Tossed salad and scrambled eggs

If only my body could produce something useful and valuable like gold or greenbacks with the same astonishing rate it produces snot, I would never have to return to work again.

Alas, I had to return to work. If nothing else for the heat and the internet.

First, let's start with the weather, which we are currently having. Usually we don't have "weather." We regularly have traffic and crazy people and star sightings, but we only rarely get weather. It's very exciting. We had rain and it snowed in the local mountains and it got cold! It didn't make it over 58 degrees yesterday, which means we're in the dead of winter. And it's supposed to rain again and get even colder, and it's already downright chilly.

So it was very convenient for the heat in my fancy new apartment to stop working. Thanks to the cold weather I was able to see with great clarity that it was very, very not-warm. And that is how I met the heater-fixing Dmitry, which means I am on my fifth Dmitry, an accomplishment in itself.

The first Dmitry is the manager, the nice Russian guy who looks like Antonio Banderas. Calm down, he's married. He's actually incredibly pleasant and during this past week I learned he was once an Olympian back in the old USSR.

"Dmitry, my heat isn't working." This was Tuesday morning, after I'd spent Monday night shivering while the heater blew cold air.

"How do you know it no is working?" he asked. This is what all the Dmitrys have in common, they suspect that whatever you are saying is broken is not really broken. It's fascinating.

"The heat is set to 90 and it's still blowing cold air," I said.

"I'll come see."

So Dmitry #1 came by to see if the heat was really broken. After some time he determined that yes, I might be right.

"It's 52 degrees in here," I said. "It's COLD. And it's going to be 32 degrees outside tonight. Can you get someone over here to fix it?"

"Once when I was training for Olympics we were in the coldest part of Russia and there was no heat for almost four days and..."

I put my hand up. "OK, I'm just going to have to stop you right there," I said. "I'm impressed with the Olympian portion of the story but I fear we're moving tragically close to the '...and I walked uphill in the snow each way with no shoes...' part of the story and I am not from Siberia. Do you know where Mississippi is? I'm from that part of the planet. Where we like to have working appliances and HEAT IN THE WINTER."

"Let me make some calls." And off he went to call Supervisor Dmitry, or Dmitry #2, who also came by later to see if I was hallucinating that the heat was broken. (This is completely fascinating to me, this idea of arguing with the tenants to see if something is broken or not.) After some stomping up and down the stairs they decided to call in Dmitry #4. I'd expected Dmitry #3, the one who fixed the roof leak and later the garbage disposal -- oh, did I forget to mention that also broke? Sometime last week it started projectile vomiting water and sludge all under the kitchen sink. Dmitry #3 did not argue that it was broken since it was clearly not working correctly, but he did accuse me of using some kind of drain cleaner or something mysterious and thereby breaking the disposal, which made me laugh.

"Yes," I told him, "That's right! I am the source of all things breaking! I also stuffed a whole human head down there just to break it because what I love is having broken appliances in my new apartment! It's my goal! I love paying exorbitant rent to live in a place where everything breaks for the sole purpose of having you blame blame me for it!"

Interestingly enough, Dmitry #3's English is good enough to understand dripping, irritated sarcasm. ("Human head," he said. "All right, all right.")

So with the heater out, I expected gruff, annoyed Dmitry #3 to come back and accuse me of doing something to the heating and cooling unit. Instead I got Dmitry #4 who just went upstairs, banged around in the closet a bit and declared in Russian something that translated into: "We have to call someone to fix this."

Which is how I am now on my fifth Dmitry and I have only lived in this apartment for three months.

Let's summarize. Since September, the roof has leaked, the garbage disposal has exploded, the fireplace broke (oh yes, forgot to mention that, but Dmitry #1 fixed it) and the central heat has gone out. The microwave also has some issues but I've been trying to get that resolved since I moved in and it's boring so I won't go into it. Also, my internet stopped working at home but that's technically the cable company's issue and they're coming Saturday.

Here are the possible reasons why:

1) This building was constructed in the height of the big housing/condo boom just before the Recession and was built in four days by the Russian Mafia as a front to hide the espionage center hidden deep underground the parking garage, and to communicate with satellites they have powerful magnetic machinery which interferes with all the appliances in the apartments above... OR ....

2) The person who lived in this unit before me knew there were some issues over the years but ignored them, leaving them for someone else to deal with.. OR....

3) My apartment is haunted.

I am going back and forth between haunted and supermagnetetron spy installation. It's a tough call.

Yesterday I did finally come back to work but I had to leave early to meet the fifth Dmitry, the one who complained a lot but seemed to at least fix the heater. The last place I lived in didn't have a working oven for two years so I guess it's an improvement to have a team of Russians fixing things, even if they do blame you for breaking them and look at you suspiciously and talk about you in Russian behind your back ("Weak American girl! Can't live in 52 degrees house! Wait until you have to work in the Gulag!")

December is a weird month anyway, it's like one of those trick clocks that you wind up and it starts to go faster and faster until the hands are racing around the face of the clock, speeding up each day like a cartoon of anxiety until it pops all it springs and flops over dead. I could be discouraged that everything is breaking all at once, but instead I feel relieved to get all the brokenness out of the way up front. No need to spread it out over the year, just get it all done with right at the beginning so you don't have to do that again.

So that's what's happening over here in crazytown. I have a vicious cold, but it's starting to get better (I still sound smoky-voiced and husky like a bad Bette Davis impersonator) and I am on my fifth Dmitry and I am behind on email and real mail and work and life and yet thanks to the healing haze of sudafed I almost don't mind. I'm at work and I'm wearing argyle and my glasses (which make me look kind of serious and mean) and I am just counting down the hours until I can go home and get into bed and drink my hot tea laced with Calvados and see what new and exciting things can break before the year is out. It's only December 10th, you know.

Posted by laurie at December 10, 2009 11:42 AM