by Adam Popescu
Where else do you have sun in January? Not in Syracuse, I can tell you that.
I’m bouncing to the exact opposite climate. No more rocking Ts outdoors. No more open windows and fresh air. No more exposed skin. No more So Cal. I’m going back to the cold hard tundras of Syracuse, New York to face winter. I gotta get some long-johns. I gotta pay my National Grid bill.
A little more than a month ago, I was stuck without hot water or heat on the coldest day of the year. My upstairs neighbor’s water heater was leaking in the basement. Plus my whole apartment smelled like gas. I called my landlord Al, told him what’s what and went to school. A few hours later I came home to Al tinkering downstairs. I walked down into the basement. Since the water heaters were connected, he had to turn off mine, too. He didn’t tell me, though. I found this out only after a luke warm shower with the dial cranked up all the way.
When he installed the new water heater, he showed me all the controls. Al told me that the guy from National Grid said there was a leak in a pipe valve, so he had to turn off the gas. He showed me the pipe and told me it wasn’t even connected. But that’s ok, I fixed it, he said. Al’s fat friend had used glue to fix it. Is that safe, I asked? Oh yeah, he said.
I was shivering in my North Face. It was 20 F in my apartment. When’s the gas back on Al?
I’m working on it. We have to give it some time, we don’t want to short out the system after just turning it off. Don’t turn on the lights, the stove, no fires. We don’t want the whole place exploding.
I walked back upstairs, and put my head down on my coffee table. Al tested the water, turning it on upstairs in my neighbor’s place. Works good, he said. No leak in the basement.
Instead, a drip turned into a steady trickle of water leaking from the ceiling. I rushed out to tell Al, but his car just sped off. Shit. I called him on the phone and told him we had to come back. Al said he needed a part and was already halfway to the store.
Go in the basement and shut off the water. I’ll be back soon. Ok.
I rushed to the basement, grabbed a wrench and started trying to tighten what I thought was the water fixture. I couldn’t even get a good grip, and I was panicking, blanking on what Al had told me no more than twenty minutes earlier. Suddenly Al is right behind me. No that’s the gas, the water’s to the left. Oh. Shit. I handed Al the pipe wrench. Here. He turned off the water again. We went upstairs in my apartment and I showed him where the water was coming from. The fat guy walked around my place in a T-shirt. Cold in here. I’m going to go get a jacket.
I asked Al again if I should call National Grid.
No. I’m working on it, Adam.
I handed Al two rent checks, thinking that would get him to speed it up. I spent over two hours bundled up with a beanie and my jacket’s hoodie. Weak from cold. Finally, he knocked on my door and told me it was safe to turn the heat on. He said he didn’t want to short the system. That’s a ten thousand dollar problem if that thing breaks.When you’re a homeowner you’ll know what to do now. Al smiled and took my checks. Cash that one now, and that one on the 5th, I said. I’m going back to Cali for the break.
We shook hands. I closed the door, turned on the heat, cranked up the shower, took my clothes off, and jumped in.