Friday, June 12, 2009

In Which We Get Into Hot Water

Today is The Day. Fanfare and trumpets, please.






Which all sounds very exciting. I have spent the past year listening to fellow expats and Russians alike bemoan the Annual No Hot Water Season*. Last summer it happened in our building after I had already fled to My Summer Dacha in My Ancestral Village.

*I assume this is true for all of Russia, but here in Moscow, some time after the central heat has gone off, the hot water goes off for two to three weeks. This happens, neighborhood by neighborhood, according to a schedule.

This year the schedule was different.

You can find it on a website, but only in Russian. I tried to decipher it, but this one stumped me. (Sometimes I can figure things out, however. Uh-huh! Can too. Sometimes. I heard The Spouse on the phone yesterday, speaking Russian, and I understood the whole thing. Couldn't reproduce it, but I knew exactly what he was asking the nice lady in the copy room to do with the long document he needed. And he wasn't being rude at all.)

I got The Spouse to check the website for me. Then I wrote NO HOT WATER in red pen on the calendar for today.

Have I explained this No Hot Water Phenomenon? Like many things in Russia, it has a kind of logic to it.

Everyone gets hot water from a central source. The same way we get heat here. No one has a hot water heater in their home. You just turn on the tap, and out comes an endless supply of hot water.

Most of the time.

From time to time something happens within the confines of our building and nothing comes out at all. But that usually only lasts a few hours at most. Yes, I usually only discover that we have no hot water after everyone else has bathed and left for the day, and I have done some chore and gotten sweaty and now am standing, naked and disappointed, in my tub. But that's just my bad luck.

The Official Story here is that the pipes require a certain amount of annual maintenance. And there is some evidence that this is true in that the no-hot-water periods have gotten shorter and shorter over the years. I have even heard that it is possible that the shut-offs might some day be a thing of the past as new and better technology and materials are developed for the central hot water system.

The Other Potentially Official Story I have heard is that no one is doing anything to the pipes: the city just shuts off the hot water to cut costs.

Anything is possible.

It is really only inconvenient for bathing and doing dishes. European washing machines take in cold water from the tap and heat it to the temperature you select. So would a dishwasher, except I don't have one. Rather I am the dishwasher. But I could, if necessary, heat water on the stove (slow) or in my electric kettle (super fast) for washing the dishes.

As for bathing, some people deal with the lack of hot water by foregoing their daily showers. Makes the Armpit Nuzzling Hell that is the Metro on a Warm Day extra special.

Some arrange to shower at their gym.

I know people who invest in a large lobster pot which they fill with water and heat on the stove prior to bathing.

Others install an auxiliary hot water heater.

This is what we have.

When I turned on the hot water tap this morning the water never got warm. So The Spouse got out the instructions from the landlords, turned a few strategically placed valves, et voilà! Hot water Chez Beet.

So I didn't suffer very much.

Sort of feels like cheating.

P.S. Thank you all for continuing to click on the big red button and vote daily until July 6 for The Beet Goes On. But while you are there, go to the last category (dark blue/Blog You've Learned the Most From) and vote for my friend's blog. It isn't competing with mine here, and she really is the most useful source of information about living with children in Moscow. And an all-around good egg.


Tina in CT said...

Hopefully you're leaving soon for the summer in the US where you won't have to be next to people in the metro that don't have hot water.

Anonymous said...

LOL! Gosh this brings back memories -- very stinky rides in the Metro & Busses, and wondering if anyone noticed MY B.O. if they stunk too... And then the utter JOY of hot water being turned back ON!!! Ah yes, the Soviet / Russian years... I chose the giant lobster pot option. Have yourself a great party when the hot water does come back on!

valentina said...

WEll fortunately you won't have to boil four kettles of water for each of you to sponge bathe in the sink. Valentina has resumed her place in my desk drawer so this will be short. So happy you will be here soon! xov

The Expatresse said...

Bigheather: remind me to tell the deodorant story. It's a Slovak story, but it could apply to any country.

valentina said...

Without even hearing it I can think of some places it could pertain to! xov

Annie said...

Right here in the U S of A, we lived out in a rural area with an energy cooperative. Twice a year all of the electricity was turned off for maintenance. This always occurred on a Sunday, which made church especially interesting.

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