Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Hulking Corpses

Those of you who live in cold weather climates will empathize with me on this one...especially those of you who rent.

To begin with, my landlord and I don't have a great relationship, due to the fact that she has some slightly altered mental status (aka accusing me of weird stuff and drawing bizarre conclusions about situations), but this status doesn't touch me when I don't have to call her. Therefore, I only call her when I REALLY have to. Like when I have no heat and it's 20 degrees outside (before factoring in the windchill). The first call about heat was last year in February. What that blog didn't reveal was the landlord accusing me of causing the short in the safety by moving a radiator (that was supposedly leaking onto this 'safety' mechanism) so I could paint my kitchen without permission. Unfortunately said radiator is at least 15 feet from the spot above which the boiler resides and I also didn't move it while painting without permission. That repair reportedly cost $800 and included the installation of a self-filling mechanism, which meant I didn't have to bust around in the basement at least once a week with a flashlight, attempting to add water to a hunk of metal, acquiring the 'perfect' water level in a test tube-like vial. It worked fine. Until Saturday--just when I was about to get in the shower to head out for a fun evening.

I hadn't had to add water to the unit for months. Granted it's been a pretty mild winter so far, and I have the thermostat set to a very conservative 64 degrees, but it has been working fine. (I had it working warmer while my parents were here for Christmas since they are so thin-skinned now.) Over that time, I've occasionally been suspicious of the water deal, so I've checked it. It was ALWAYS just right. Until I smelled 'the smell' that last February drove me to call 911 and the gas company. It was not as obviously nauseating this time, but faintly wafting from the basement, through my back door as I walked past it. So, down to the bowels I went, flashlight in hand, to rescue some other poor tenant whose boiler was meeting the same fate as mine a year ago. But ah no, it was mine again. The metal on the unit was orange-hot in some places and I ran upstairs to turn the heat off. Crap. What the heck happened?? So I had to get ready--the birthday girl needed to get to her surprise party and she was in my possession. My plan was to let the unit cool off overnight, add water in the AM, start her up and see what happened. Then call the landlord.

That plan worked all day Sunday. It was lovely and warm while I poured over the Boston Globe and worked the crossword. Then I came home from church about 11pm. It was 58 degrees in the apartment. A trip to the dungeon showed no conclusive evidence--water was in there, unit was on, but nothing was happening. What the hay? So I had to call, but not until the next day.

A neighbor (Beth) and I go walking frequently and she called me Monday AM to go. It was cold so we trotted off to a local mall (yes, we ARE getting old) to windowshop and powerwalk. That's when I realized I didn't have the landlord's number in my new phone. I guess it was some sort of Freudian omission when I transferred numbers. So I had to ask Beth for it. We both REALLY hate calling her, but she agreed the heat thing was a big deal.

I finally took the plunge at 12:30, freezing at my laptop, praying she would be pleasant. Surprisingly, she was. She thought it was just the pilot that went out (that being an easy fix) and I hoped that it was. I begrudgingly also told her about my toilet that had been leaking (omitting that I noticed the leak about 2 weeks before Christmas). Better to do this all at once to limit contact.

So, the heating repair guys were called and they arrived after I left for a meeting in Boston. My spy (Beth) talked to the repairman (before the landlord arrived) while he examined the cold medusa and got the inside scoop--the unit was over 20 years old, had needed repair for a while, and now needed to be replaced. $5000-$6000 replacement cost. Dang. I hadn't heard any update from the landlord at all, so I wondered if there would be heat on my arrival home.

And there was. Some minor fixing at least got the aging beast going, but it was belching out steam that should be going into the pipes and into my radiators. (I don't even want to think about my gas bill this month.) No word of update still, until 6:57 yesterday morning. Yes, you read that right--the landlord called ME before 7am and woke me up to say the whole unit needed replacing and I needed to check the water level on it and call her back. I turn down the temp to 60 (or less) overnight since I have a heating fan in the bedroom that is lovely. So, I didn't think the water level would be a problem. But, no again, the thing was glowing orange with no water. I turned off the thermostat again, and called the landlord on the way to my AM appointment. She was in her crazy mode. I tried to explain that adding water to superhot metal like that could make it explode and by turning down the thermostat all the way that it would quit heating. But no, she didn't understand this and kept going on about how I was going to burn her house down and that the boiler is like an empty kettle on the stove...(despite the fact that I turned off the 'stove') So she was coming over to keep harm from coming to the house.

Well, Beth the spy said she was only around for maybe 20 minutes, cleaned the snow off the sidewalk, and left. When I finally got back home at 7:30pm, it was 55 degrees in the house. Near my back door lay an opened box that contained a ceramic radiator (something expressly forbidden in the lease) with no explanation. And my back door was left unlocked. Argh. (She technically never asked permission to come into my apartment, so technically she was breaking and entering.) The radiator doesn't really work at all, by the way, unless you have it on high and sit within 4 feet of it. I huddled in the living room with it for a few hours and gave up about 10:30 for my much better $15 heating fan in the bedroom.

So, faithfully, she called at 7:30am this morning. I didn't take the call. She called again and left a message. She texted me. I finally listened to the message after she banged on my back door at 9am, waking me up. She and the heating crew were there for the installation. She asked about the car in the driveway (Beth's) and said that it needed to move. She went upstairs and banged on Beth's door. She didn't answer. Then Beth called me.

Part of our heating issue is the tragic thinness of walls (and floors) that were constructed in 1930. We are all trading convenience for character here. Therefore, I heard the entire content of the landlord's droning phone conversation to someone (her husband?) that wasn't very nice in referring to me or Beth. She cast aspersions every which way about us. So, Beth and I whispered (literally) a plan for me to retrieve her keys via the front stairs and then move her car. This is what we did to allow for the heating company truck to get closer to the house.

So, 2 relatively attractive men are in the basement sawing, drilling, dragging, banging, and shaking my house. The new boiler will be installed by the end of today, which will be wonderful. But that doesn't fix the leaking toilet...Or the fact that all her tenants desire to avoid this woman to the extent that we will feign sleep or lie. Man, that is so not who I want to be.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

oh fun. this seems just such a wonderful time. im glad i dont have to deal with landlords yet.