Monday, January 10, 2011

I hate the cold

My heat is broken. Or maybe its not. I don't know. Same with the hot water. And the washing machine. Normally I would run over and grab the super and (pardon my French) bitch at him until everything got fixed. The problem with my apartment is that there is no super. All we have is a 40-something year old man named Ilker who really couldn't care less about my Soviet-Russia/Bauhaus love-child gem of a building. You see, Ilker is in charge of all the university's facilities and while I guess going rent-free for a year should probably bar me from any complaining, complain I shall.

When the weather first took a turn towards winter, we had a bit of an issue with our heating. We couldn't get it going properly in all the rooms. We have radiators you see and who under the age of 65 has any idea how to work a metal radiator? As far as I can tell you have to completely open the one in the kitchen to get the heat flowing to each of the subsequent radiators. Well, some men came by, opened them up, laughed at us for our incompetence and we had heat, for about a month until three days ago when I noticed a draft in the living room. I opened them all up, my right-y tight-y, left-y loose-y system was confirmed by the soğuk/sicak markings on the knobs, but work they did not.

It got colder and colder until I was forced to wear a hat and winter jacket in the living room, not noticing a difference from the temperature outside when I entered my flat. Then I noticed, when doing a pile of dishes, that there wasn't any hot water. This happens occasionally, I think we have building-wide hot water, a rarity here, and it is often depleted at high-shower times (7-8am) but I noticed throughout the day that the water wasn't just lukewarm but unbearably freezing. And, since I hadn't showered in two days, this was going to be a problem.

A cold shower when you're in a warm apartment isn't fun, but its not threatening to your health either. A hot shower in a cold apartment can be equally shocking to the system but, ultimately its pretty benign. An ice cold shower in a 50 degree (9C) apartment is both not fun and not healthy. So, I got creative.

Or rather, I thought back to our forefathers, what would, nay, what did they do when faced with such a situation. They boiled water over a fire and then washed themselves with that warm water. And, while I didn't have a fireplace, I did have my trusty electric kettle. So, after boiling some tap water, I grabbed my pasta pot--the largest pot I own--and got into the bath tub. I carefully mixed the boiling water with the ice water from the tap. I did my best to wash my hair and while there is still a bit of shampoo residue, I  deem the adventure a success.

Shower down. Next thing to tackle was the laundry. See, we have a washing machine but I have a feeling it was some factory reject the university acquired at a severely discounted price. The thing hops and dances all over the bathroom and, if you're not careful to put away the TP and anything else on top to the machine before starting a cycle, you can be sure it will end up in the toilet. This was always annoying but recently things have taken a turn for the worse. The damn thing will hop its way around, spinning 180 degrees to face the wall it came from, it makes such a racket and bangs so violently that I am beginning to worry it will dislodge the toilet at some point. It made such a hullabaloo when I used it on Saturday, I cancelled the cycle and rung out the clothes myself.

Delightful right? Well, back to the heating situation. Living in an ancient building in Turkey rarely has the charm of some reclaimed Brooklyn loft with exposed brick and wood beams. These buildings are scary and typically malfunction so often that any charm you could possibly squeeze out of anything built in the 1960s is immediately rendered worthless. The electricity just shuts off when it wants. Lightbulbs blow weekly. The circuits are tripped daily. There is some honking noise coming from the basement that Sherri and I initially and incorrectly attributed to a fog horn from the shipyard behind our building.

I wish I could say, however, that the terrible heating found in our apartment could be credited to any of the following:

1. a warm climate that so rarely requires good heating that in the occasional cold-snap, people freeze (unequivocally false)
2. its a damn old building made of uninsulated concrete with drafty, mis-shaped windows (this definitely doesn't help but it's not the whole problem)
3. a lazy foreman with only a menial knowledge of building (again, perhaps true, but then, every building nation-wide would also fall into this category)

Our university opened in 2006 and, while it was originally part of Trakya Universitesi, an enormous school, many of our buildings are brand new, like really, brand new. They are still being built around us. One thing you will see throughout these buildings, however, is the space heater. Yes, the space heater. And, I'm not talking little black box of warm-ish air, I'm talking gigantic fire-breathing fire-hazard.

I find it hilarious, after being fined for having a coffeepot in my school dorm because it was deemed a fire hazard, that this would be allowed anywhere near a university facility. Well, I kid you not when I say, there is at least one in every single administrative office. No word yet on how many people have been maimed by the heat these things throw, or how much property damage or many people have been killed by fires started by them, but hey the radiators certainly aren't doing it. 

I'll get back to you when I track down the architect and ask why central heating was not included and also, while we're at it, why on earth the building is heated by coal. Coal that belches black, filthy, choking smog into the air and into my lungs and eyes. Coal that will be outlawed in 2 years time. 


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