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My apartment, old as it is, has a lot of “quirks”. These are the charming, quaint things that come with living in a 100-year-old house, and for the most part I enjoy them. What I do not enjoy is the fact that if I ever turn my heat down to below 62 degrees, it shuts off completely and does not turn on again for days regardless of the temperature I re-set it to. At first, this wasn’t that big a deal. I’d shut the heat off overnight, turn it back on before work, and by about 9pm, it would kick back on again. It was warmer outside as well, so if it got a little chilly, my fleece blanket warded that off handily, and I was still content.
Then the heat started taking longer to come back on, so I’d leave the thermostat set at 62 degrees constantly and wake up sweating under my heavy quilt. Twice now I’ve slipped and accidentally turned it down too far so that it shut itself off. The first time, it took three days for my heat to come back, prompting a call to landlady asking “can something be done about this?” Presently, I’m on day four of no heat.
By this morning, I was tempted to move my reading chair and lamp into the kitchen so I could cozy up next to the oven. I was envisioning where Heidi (in the book Heidi) and her grandfather moved down off of the mountain, and she created a small bed of hay in a nook by the stove, which was just the right size for a small girl, and toasty warm. I am not a fictional Swiss orphan—it should not come to this.
The funniest thing is, in Fargo, I refused to turn on the heat. It worked, but I couldn’t afford it, so I got an electric blanket and three jobs so I was never home. When I was home, I stayed in one place as much as possible, cocooned in blankets and swilling hot beverages. My brother encouraged me to start a trash fire, but I said, “No”.
Now, I want to pay for heat, and I’ve done all the things that should give me heat–but I can’t have it. This summer, when I told a friend that I was sad to go home from work because it would be so sticky and hot in my apartment, she asked me, “Don’t you have air conditioning?”
“Yes,” I told her, “I have two window units, but I don’t want to pay to run it so I sit with those cold packs you buy for camping resting on my head or the small of my back.”
She just gave me a look, a kind of bemused pity and said, “Someday, I really hope you can have climate control.”
I concurred that that would be a nice thing, but unlikely to happen anytime soon. Now, as I sit wrapped in blankets, with the space heater I purchased this morning quietly radiating beside me, I feel like I should read something Russian and tragic, or Dickensian to really harness the atmosphere. I could make a cup of weak tea that tastes like the leaves have been steeped too many times, and gnaw on a slightly stale hunk on bread, or maybe some kind of pasty cream-of-wheatish whatnot that could be called gruel. I’m not really hungry, though, and I have a delicious beer to drink instead, so instead I’ll read a quaint comedy-of-manners and wish I had a servant to yell at when my toes get chilly.