Tuesday, December 04, 2007

First, Do No Harm...

Last Wednesday, the heat in our master bedroom stopped working. On the cusp of December here in New England, it is cold. A quick glance at the forecast showed that by Saturday, we would see a high of 32 and low of 15 degrees, aggravated by strong winds.

Now, being the stand-up, self-reliant MAN that I am, I didn't want to bother my landlord. My bedroom represents only one of the four heat zones. My kitchen, living room, and most importantly, the kids' bedrooms upstairs all had heat. The heat has been occasionally fickle so I figured there was a good chance it may pop back on any minute. So why bother my landlord and a plumber? You should only molest him for the BIG stuff.

However, pesty experience reminded me, that if our overall heat got worse, that there'd be no way any plumber would be available this upcoming freezing weekend.

So, two days passed and my bedroom was still an igloo. Friday afternoon I alerted my landlord. He came and checked it out while we hit Outback Steakhouse. He couldn't get it going.

Saturday arrives and it is FREEZING - just as forecast. My landlord comes over at 6pm to try and "fix" the heat. An hour later, he leaves. I tell him, it's okay. we have a space heater. We'll be fine...yadda yadda yadda (read "get out of my house please" and "if anything, please call a plumber"). So he does eventually get a hold of a plumber who plans on showing up at 8am the next morning. Great. We go to church at 8:30am and plumbers are even less punctual than the cable guys.

My landlord leaves. Soon after he's gone, I realize that his attempted "fixing" has knocked out two more of the heat zones. Now only my kids' bedrooms upstairs have heat.

Here, I paused and fumed and contemplated. All I wanted to to do was alert my landlord to the situation - namely that my heat was fading fast. So I text-messaged him. Maybe he could get the plumber to come that night or, minimally, my case would at least be given more urgency in the AM?

Unfortunately, my landlord fashions himself an auto-didactic plumber and went to Home Depot. He bought some new digital thermostats and a new "regulator" or ("circulator"). Now mind you, plumbing is no amateur hobby. I got very nervous when my dogged landlord showed back up at my house at 8pm.

He's here for an hour and a half. Borrowing my tools, keeping my kids awake, traipsing dirt on the floors I just mopped. I preemptively told him I wanted to be in bed at 8:30. Here's what followed:

Tactfully, I pleaded with him to not do anything. Don't try to change a regulator; leave the thermostats alone; etc. It was to no avail.

He pulls my bedroom thermostat off the wall, unhooks the wires and reattaches them to a new one he purchased at Home Depot. "Can't you get electrocuted doing stuff like this?", I wondered while I kept my distance.

He goes to the corner of the room to inspect the radiator and hollers to me, "Hey, do you know you have cold air coming out of your vents...you got to close these".

Say what?

Now its screaming windy out. So whatever draft he felt from the floor vents I assumed was coming somehow from outside. Then I noticed cold air coming out of another vent. I looked at my landlord and bellowed:

CaptiousNut - Yo, you turned the air conditioning on. You must have the wires attached wrong!!!

Though immediately in denial, after a minute he realized something about his installation was awry. He unplugs the thermostat and switches the wires without effect. Cold air is still streaming from my formidable central AC unit into my already frigid bedroom.

My artless landlord then removes the thermostat completely but even that didn't terminate the air conditioning. I let this clown monkey around for another twenty minutes before I handed him a flashlight and demanded he go outside and manually turn off the AC unit.

Now it was 9:30pm. I made him leave. Later that night, even my kids' heat stopped working.

Shouldn't there be a Hippocratic oath for penny-pinching landlords?

First, do no harm...

A credit check just isn't sufficient vetting.

Aside from the annoyance of my amateur landlord, the erratic to non-existent heat has been no big deal.

I just remind myself that we have soldiers carrying 90-pound backpacks in the Iraqi desert.


Taylor Conant said...

Did you really say "Yo"? That doesn't sound like something that would be part of your vernacular.

There is a key difference between you and the soldiers in the deserts of Iraq. With you, neither you nor your landlord purposefully intends for you and your family to be uncomfortable. It was an "accident" and you are both working toward resolving that problem. With the soldiers in Iraq, you purposefully intended for them to be there, and therefore you support how uncomfortable they are. Your continued moral and political support for their occupation of Iraq means you also support them suffering whatever and whenever they must to "get the job done" (whenever that will be).

CaptiousNut said...

Yo Taylor,

"Yo" is part of THE vernacular and it's a chief word in MY personal lexicon/argot. I lived in Philadelphia for 9 years. Much of that time I spent hanging in South Philly. Long before your time there was a movie "Rocky" that gives a great glimpse of the sovereign country that is South Philadelphia. I highly recommend watching it. For the record, I do not use the word "youse". That is SoPhilly's version of y'all.

As for the "soldiers in Iraq", consider that you may be reading too much into my sentence. Perhaps I should change it to the "starving kids in Africa". My point is simply that hardship is relative.

Did your parents ever bade you clean your dinner plate because of those poor kids? Or has that gone out of fashion?

Taylor Conant said...

Yo C,

I have recently been rethinking my use of words like "Yo" and other ebonics-based language (but maybe your point is that "yo" itself may not be entirely ebonics-based). I can't really figure out what "Yo" is supposed to mean (is it short for you? why hail someone with "you!"?) so I don't see why I should keep using it. I have realized it also sounds quite unintelligent and unprofessional, things I am somewhat concerned with as I consider that I might soon be working with self-responsible adults in the near future.

As for the soldier bit, yes... I realized when I was writing it you could substitute the "starving in Africa" line. In fact, that was one of several phrases I imagined subbing in. I get your point. I, however, chose to make my own with it, as you gave me the perfect opportunity. Anytime I have a chance to remind you of something like that I'll probably take it.

And you're right that hardship is relative, but it's also absolute! If I don't eat for a week, I don't become less hungry thinking about a Congo war victim that hasn't eaten in a month! Sure he's relatively more hungry than me, but I'm still starving, too.

Thankfully, my parents kept the collective-human-suffering crankism mightily toned down throughout my childhood. They found other ways to traumatize me, of course.

And I've got Rocky on my Netflix queue, ashamed to say I've never seen it.

Did you see the Departed? Did you like it?

CaptiousNut said...

Never even heard of The Departed. Movies have sucked since the late 90s. And, having had a DVR for five years now, I haven't even seen the commercials for all these current bad flicks no less the movies themselves. Been to maybe three movies in the last 6 years. I don't even remember which ones; I am rounding up.

Rocky II is a much better movie than the original. III is decent but Rocky IV was a little better.

As for "Yo"...say you are starving, and you bought yourself a hoagie/sub/hero/grinder. You turn around and witness two of your gumbas carving it up. What the heck are you going to yell at them?



"Excuse me!"




I submit there's no more articulate response than a loud "YO!".

Well, say your gumbas have ignored your "Excuse me!" and devoured your lunch. I firmly believe that if you harness your brain and think of those starving savages, the pangs of your hunger will in fact be mitigated. I am serious.

I have been experimenting with a "less is more" sort of life philosophy and it's been paying dividends. Maybe I'll blog on it in the not to distant future.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like renting a single family house from an amateur landlord is as much (or maybe more) of a hassle as home ownership.


Anonymous said...

Amateur landlord
Lower rent
Higher frustration

I would have had it fixed myself and deducted the bill from the rent

Still think it is worth it to rent right now