Tuesday, January 6, 2009

It's cold!

Winter has finally arrived! For the past 2 weeks the high temperatures have been consistently below freezing. Call me crazy, but I love cold weather. Last winter in Lugoj was sort of a bust; it hardly snowed and the highs were in the mid 30s-40s. I think it was actually cold for one week in total. This was a big disappointment because for me it doesn't really feel like winter unless my toes are constantly cold and my nose runs like a faucet.

In fact you'd probably be right to call me crazy. I'm not sure why I like winter so much, given all its burdensome inconveniences. I mean, showering is a big hassle (especially when your bathroom doesn't have any heat!), the utilites bills shoot through the roof, and you have to wear a jacket any time you leave the house (which is something I patently disklike. Heck, I don't even like socks). Add to all of that the danger of freezing pipes--something my father's careful obsession with 'home-winterizing' taught me to fear like the plague.

Being on vacation from school last week, I left Lugoj for a little jaunt through Serbia and Bosnia. I took what I thought were all the necessary precautions--I watered my plants, washed the pile of dirty dishes in my sink, threw out the garbage and shut off my main waterline. Everything seemed in order as I locked my door and left. However, upon my return, I turned the mainline back on and discovered the water was no longer flowing. It seemed that the pipe had frozen. Gasp!

I should explain that I live in a building that's at least one hundred years old, and none of its apartments originally had electricity or running water. Plumbing has since been added, but in a rather ad hoc, hodge-podge fashion. In my particular apartment, a bathroom was added only a mere 2 years ago. In order to direct water to my place, the plumbers ran a pipe from one of the stores below me, up through the back balcony and into my apartment. The problem with this setup is that, even though it is mostly covered by concrete, the pipe isn't insulated. So, it's essentially exposed to exterior temperatures, which is never a good idea (just ask my dad). So, of course as soon as the air got cold enough, the pipe froze, especially since I had been gone for an extended period and hadn't run the water in a while. Clearly the man who installed the pipe wasn't thinking about what happens to water when it drops below 32 degrees. Clearly he'd never met my father.

Returning home after a long trip, all I wanted to do was take a hot shower. But obviously I couldn't do that. So I resigned to sleeping in my filth until I could tackle the problem in the morning. The next day I spoke with my land-lady and neighbors and asked if they had water issues. Nope, they all seemed to be problem-free; I was the only one. So, my land-lady and I called up all the plumbers we knew, asking them to come out and check things out. But, no one was available, or no one wanted to come (I tend to think my land-lady has a certain unfavorable reputation among all the tradesmen in town: "oh no, Stefania is calling again! Quick, pretend you have the flu!"). So, I decided to run some extension cords out my window and place some space heaters along the pipe. I set it all up and left it to run all night long. However, this morning there still wasn't any water.

At this point, clearly pushing the limits of hygiene, I meekly asked one of my colleagues at school if I could shower at his home. Lucky for me and the public in general, he said yes. So I finally got a shower, but I was still keen to get a plumber to my apartment as soon as possible...otherwise I'd have to use the showers at the school gym. I wasn't prepared to relive highschool.

My land-lady spent most of today making calls to all her usual plumber contacts, but she couldn't convince anyone to come out. I can only guess that word is spreading through town of the plumbing disaster commonly known as 6 Mocioni Street. This old building really must be a plumber's nightmare. Frustrated and on the point of desperation, my land-lady finally made a phone call to a plumber that someone had recommended to her. It turned out he lives just around the corner, and he came straight over (bless his heart, he must have been the only plumber in town who hadn't yet heard about the horrors of 6 Mocioni). When he arrived, he got right to work and it was immediately clear that he was good at his trade. He worked tirelessly, heating up the concrete with a flame in the hopes that pipe underneath would warm up and melt the ice. After about 3 hours and still no success, he dejectedly strolled into my apartment and said he was giving up for the night. He added, "you basically have two options: 1. wait until the weather warms up enough to naturally melt the ice--certainly not my first choice, or 2. tear up the concrete and rip out the pipe. The more I considered my options, the more attractive nr. 2 sounded, even though I knew it was going to be a pain in the neck. But just as I was considering it, I suddenly heard the sound of water running in my bathroom. "no way,' I thought, "it can't be!" I flung open my bathroom door, and sure enough, my water had returned. We smiled at each other and jumped for joy.

I guess the moral of the story is that we blindly rely on so many seemingly insignificant modern conviences. We're only really aware of this fact when they're absent. Or, I guess the moral of the story could be to insulate your pipes!


Anonymous said...

Good luck!

Dad said...

Great story, Great read, had me hooked til the last word.

p.s. don't forget to zip up when you go outside!

Craig | travelvice.com said...

Wheee! Romania!