New York Lesson XVIII

When girlfriend found our apartment in July, we were understandably excited.  It was close to school and the subway, it wasn’t on the ground floor, it had the right number of rooms, and it wasn’t exorbitantly overpriced.  Best of all, we thought, were the utilities.  Compared to living in Columbia, MO, utilities were estimated to be much cheaper.  Best of all, water and heat were included in the rent!  Last weekend, I discovered why.

At about 1 AM on Sunday night, I was reading A Storm of Swords, up late again because, gosh darn it, I just can’t get enough pseudo-medieval intrigue and king-killing.  I’d heard what I thought was the wind blowing in through the fan in the window, but after a while, I realized the sound was getting louder, and was much more consistent than any wind I’ve ever heard, becoming more and more like a steady hiss than a wind.  I saw the cat approach the cover around one of the radiators, trying to figure out what demon from hell was making that infernal hissing.  It was then I realized that the heat was finally blowing.

At that point, I was happy to have the heat.  There had been a couple nights in the previous two weeks when I could have used a blast of hot air to chase the chill from the apartment.  But the building’s boiler hadn’t been turned on, and I had no idea what conditions would make it do so.  Whatever they were, it apparently happened late Sunday night, and I basked in the gradual (and I mean gradual) warmth spreading through the room.

Until it got warmer.  Then even warmer.  Frankly, I was hot.  I decided to try and adjust the heat, using the knob underneath the unit nearest my bed.  The radiator quickly let me know it was displeased, knocking and groaning with unholy anger.  I quickly turned the knob back to where I’d found it, and the sound subsided.  As a meager half-solution, I turned on all the fans, partially opened a window, and sweated myself to sleep.

The next day, the radiators alternated periods of hissing with a diabolical silence, with each renewed session being signaled by a modulating pitch not unlike the sound of a flash from a 1990s camera.  I opened a window by the couch to more comfortably watch my Cleveland Browns get humiliated by the Giants, but I had to shut it around the third quarter, when the cold made me shiver and sent lap-sweat flying around the living room.

And yet, today, which felt just as cold as the past two days, the radiators did not come on once.  At all.  Not the ones in the bedroom, not the rads in the living room, not even the vertical pipes running in the bathroom and kitchen that I learned will scald the bejesus out of your hand when you test to see if it’s warm (the fact that I learned this on both the bathroom and kitchen pipes probably speaks to a larger issue that I should deal with sooner rather than later).

Ultimately, I appreciate that there does seem to be heat, and that at times it can be gosh-darn effective.  And I also appreciate that I don’t need to pay a separate bill for heat–it’s built into the price of the apartment.  But what I do miss is a trusty HVAC system, with a thermostat that I control. 

Oh, and Donatos Pizza.