Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Inferno

My sister and I flew back to New York last night, arriving very late because of a delayed flight. Even though the city has been experiencing a heat wave, we thought it would be cool outside at 11 p.m. but it wasn't. It was still in the 90s as we waited forever at the bus stop. When we got to the subway, our train wasn't air-conditioned (usually they are, but things often go wrong) and then we had to climb the hill to our house. So we had worked up quite a sweat by the time we reached our front door. Still, we were unprepared for the inferno that met us as we opened the door and stepped inside. Strangely, the house was blazing hot inside, even though all the windows were open. And it wasn't just your average summer heat. It was BLAZING. Our roommates were asleep so we couldn't ask them what was going on, but we soon realized that all the radiators were going full blast!

Obviously something had malfunctioned because even though all the radiators were switched off, they were still emitting massive amounts of heat, and we could even hear them sizzling. In these old houses, there is a boiler which controls the hot water and the radiators using oil and steam (somehow--I'm fuzzy on the particulars) and our landlady had supposedly turned off the master radiator control weeks ago when the weather turned warm. But clearly, either she did something wrong, or something broke.

Our floors were hot from the pipes underneath them, and the cold water faucets were flowing with hot steamy water. It was like we were in the twilight zone. So E and I plugged in our AC unit and cranked it up, hoping it could compete with the radiator below it. I turned on my computer and found an email from one roommate saying that when she woke up on Monday morning the radiators were all going full blast and she was worried that our house was going to burn down because the landlady wasn't returning her calls and the first floor of our house is full of the landlady's junk--who knows what is down there...it could be combustible! So she got a neighbor to help her go into the rooms downstairs that are full of our landlady's junk and they moved stuff away from the radiators and tied up curtains and tried to go down to the basement to see the boiler but it was so hot and dark down there that they gave up. However, my roommate did call the city hotline number that you can use to report stuff like when you have no heat or hot water in the winter and you're about to die. She reported our landlady's junk as a safety hazard, which it probably is.

Anyway, so my sister and I went to bed and today when we woke up we talked to our other roommates and got the story. I was hoping that we could call the fire department or something and have them come and dramatically bust the boiler and save us damsels in distress, but J said that she'd finally heard from the landlady and that she was going to try to get someone to come over. But nobody came and when I got home from work today the thermometer in my bedroom was 100 degrees even! I was about to call 911 when I saw the landlady herself, down in her room sorting trash (did I mention that she's crazy?) and she said she'd fixed a wire that had shorted and caused the boiler to malfunction, and wasn't it funny that it happened on the hottest weekend of the year? Ha ha. Like the time we had no heat or hot water on the coldest day of the year. Hilarious.

So it's starting to slowly get cool in our room. At 7 pm it was 100 degrees and now its 84, which feels deliciously cool in comparison. And I think it's going to cool down outside too, because as soon as I got back from the grocery store, a huge thunderstorm rolled in. It was frightening, actually, and I usually don't get scared by storms. But there I was, sitting in the slowly-cooling bedroom and all of a sudden the entire house shook and the windows rattled like someone was battering them. I heard a crash from upstairs and I just knew that even though we'd survived a giant tinderbox-house house, we were now going to have the whole old rickety mess blown away by a tornado. I ran upstairs and the wind was blowing in the windows and knocking chairs over. Lighting cracked and rain gusted in, so I ran back down to my room and called my other sister on the telephone to get my mind off all the craziness. She told me that where she is, in Idaho, it only got up to 48 degrees today, but she did have a trampoline picked up by a gust of wind and carried UFO-like into a cow pasture.

So then, to top off the night, as I was sitting there talking on the phone, a gigantic cockroach ran across the floor and I don't know how I didn't just die right then and there. I killed it, but I want to know what is going to happen next? Are we experiencing plagues like the biblical Egyptians? First heat, then wind, then insects? When will the madness end?


Donnie Barnes said...

Oh the horror. I would have been in a hotel that night, I believe. Wow.

Lis said...

This is so CRAZY! And a fabulous story. But I don't know how you all didn't perish.