Last week, I reported that I hadn’t had heat for 11 days. I still don’t have heat, but I did cause a small panic among my friends who all offered me a place to stay. So thank you—I’m feeling very loved. It’s all good—my heat still hasn’t dipped below 60 degrees so I’m well within standard New England/Yankee parameters. But what is funny is how my landlord and I have begun to refer to this debacle. It started normally enough: A day of trying various remedies, leading to a professional and a series of misdiagnoses and a wrong part. That led us to ordering a part over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend. The professional is actually a friend of my landlord’s, so our job is moonlighting and slotted for after 5, which would be fine except that the two different days he came to install the part, my upstairs neighbor decided to lock the door to the furnace room—which has two entry points, one from the outside and from his apartment. It took a couple of days to straightened out the locked door situation—my neighbor works a lot and seems to be impervious to any other human condition save his own—and the repairman was supposed to come this weekend, but guess what? He has pneumonia. This is the part where the writing teacher, depending on their general disposition, would scribble in the margin, “Seems unrealistic; I think the main character’s frustration is clear with the obstacles you’ve described already,” or “This is utterly ridiculous. Rewrite.”
My landlord has made his frustration with the situation clear, in his thick Boston accent and penchant for talking sarcastically about how the ground is too frozen to dig shallow graves. He was born in the city we live in, on the northern border of Boston—think Southie, but Italian rather than Irish. On first acquaintance, you don’t think of him much past the rough, Boston neighborhood stereotype, but here’s the thing. He has a great vocabulary and has on occasion made literary references that I have a very dim memory of. So I thought I would have some fun when I said to him that the situation was becoming a Samuel Beckett play. I was not disappointed. He countered that he thought it was Kafkaesque. This tickled me to no end, and reveals a lot about our personalities. I’m more of a wait and see kind of person, where he tends to focus on the dark side of everything.
The repairman has pneumonia and sole possession of the replacement part. A blizzard is hurling itself towards the northeast, and there is a predicted two feet of snow. Other than hoping it will act as insulation, there is nothing left to do—pulling in a new repair person will still take a couple of days. So in the end literature is really all we really have to understand this situation. That and wine. Lots and lots of wine. I bet Beckett and Kafka could have written a great piece about it.