19 July, 2007

Only two weeks for boiler room maintenance!

Greetings from a land where boiler room maintenance now takes only two weeks! Really! I've written before that in many buildings, hot water is supplied from a central location, a boiler room, so to speak. The apartment building my wife's family lives in (as do I, by extension) is one of these. The other day a sign was posted outside the door:

Residents are advised that there will be no hot water from 15.7.07 to 30.7.07. Boiler room maintenance.
Okay, it didn't actually say that, but I don't remember the original Russian, so a translation will have to do.

I told my wife that it seemed incredible that repairing a boiler would take two weeks. She told me that's not as bad as it used to be.

What do you mean? I asked.

It used to take a month.

A month? How often did they do this?

Every summer.

Feel free to insert a gratuitous joke about the European work ethic here. I can't, because I know too many hard-working Europeans, including my father-in-law.

Speaking him: while mere mortals are heating water themselves over the stove and use that to take baths, my father-in-law and I are taking cold showers. He, however, is a world apart. Whereas the frigid water means that I get in & out pretty quickly, my wife informed me that her father has been taking his usual 10-minute shower each morning. I wouldn't believe it myself if I didn't hear it, but yesterday I was awake at the time and it really did sound like he was in there for ten minutes.
This is the same man who, during the winters, habitually walks barefoot on the snow. It's some sort of Russian folk medicine to prevent illness. (The Italian writer Eugenio Corti mentions this in his memoir of service as an Italian soldier on the Russian front in 1942-1943, Few Returned.) No wonder they don't think two weeks without hot water is a problem. They're probably glad it takes place during July instead of February.
I grudgingly admit a measure of awe, but not the sort that makes me wish to emulate him.

My daughter is also determined to do all kinds of things to challenge the possibility of her existence, but she's only one year old, so she tends to do things like try to caress the dog and get bitten after she pokes her in the eye, or look at a flowerpot and decide that the soil must be a dessert. I honestly have no idea how our species managed to survive for millions of years in forests and caves when our children must have been poisoning themselves faster than we could make them. I wonder if other infant primates are such morons as ours. One day I'll have to sit down with an evolutionary biologist and work this out.

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