Saturday, February 08, 2014

I listen to the wind, to the wind of my soul

So I am pretty sure that we are being poisoned by our water.  Okay, that's an exaggeration. (Not really.) I have long been, shall we say, suspicious of the water here because it is problematic water but not in the familiar way of hard water or well water in the US. But our dogs are always itchy and my hair is generally ruined and I sometimes have to wash our clothes 3 times in  a row. And also, the Italians are always drinking bottled water and I think it's illegal to order tap water in a restaurant. I have extensively googled "water in Rome" and "Rome water" and "safety of Rome water" and now I know all about the construction of the aqueducts and that not only it is perfectly safe to drink water here, the water here is of an excellent quality.

Which I did not believe for a second (seriously, you should see my hair) and so my additional googling of "is the poisoned water in Rome why Italians are chic" and "did poisoned water lead to the end of the Roman Empire" led me to discover that the water has very high levels of calcium  that apparently coats the water pipes to the point that it protects us from lead poisoning.

On a related note, we have had plumbing problems ever since we moved into this apartment. Which you may or may not recall as I have complained it about once or twice. Or in 17 different blog posts. The latest issue was that we could no longer get hot water on demand (again) and had to leap, screeching from the middle of a shower when the hot water suddenly shut off and jump into the bathtub (that is in a separate room) in the hopes that it had hot water, or in the kitchen sink if the bathtub was also being an asshole.

Our water supply had also slowed to a trickle in most faucets. Our landlord, L.D., was as always, quick to spring into action. "Please," we begged, "we cannot get showers." L.D. mulled it over and complimented my sense of interior design. I thought she was telling me I was an architect but that's neither here nor there. "The hot water?"we prompted. She asked how our son John was doing in school and told us how handsome he was.  Our landlord thinks our son is pretty much the best thing since sliced bread. We saw our opening and seized it: "John is very sad because we have no hot water and he can't get a shower," we lamented. And L.D. called a plumber on the spot.

The plumber didn't show up the first day he was scheduled to arrive. (You aren't having deja vu, that is how all my Italian plumbing stories start. Oh heck, that's how most of my Italian stories start, period.) He did show up the second time he was scheduled to arrive and was only 2 hours late. He spoke the same amount of English as I speak Italian and so of all things, we were able to understand each other quite well.

He spent several hours checking things and he used some tools and replaced some small things, all the while telling me things were no good and pretty much everything needed to be replaced. He tried to call our landlord to tell her this and it turned out she had given him the wrong number. Hmmm. So I called her and handed him the phone. He told me he would be back tomorrow and that I owed him "only 70 euro." So we got into a bit of an argument as I told him I owed him nothing and he could collect the money from the landlord and he said he couldn't and I said he could and he said he couldn't and I said he could and we comprised on me giving him 30.

Because apparently the small things he had been replacing fell under tenant responsibility. Or something. Plus he had to buy a new shower head and a mystery substance that turned out to be glue. Have you ever tried to play Pictionary or Charades and the word is glue? I can tell you right now that you will never guess it. It would be even harder than the time we were playing Pictionary and my Uncle Billy kept drawing what seemed to be a broken leg or a leg in a cast and it turned out his word was "skiing" and he was drawing a broken leg because that's what he felt had happened to the person who had been skiing.

So glue was an English word the plumber didn't have and an Italian word I didn't have. So he mimed his two hands coming apart and together. "Butterfly!" I guessed, "Farfalla! Monarch! Monarchy! Caterpillar! Cocoon! Spring! Rebirth!" Finally we settled on him typing the Italian word into Google translate and then I practiced the Italian word and he practiced the English one and I told him he owed me only 50 euro for his English lesson. And then the plumber showed me his scar from where he had been bitten by a great white shark attacked by a pit bull.

The plumber assured me that he would return in a week to replace the water heater if L.D. the landlord would agree.

And sure enough, two months later L.D., her sister, and the plumber all arrived. The minute the plumber was out of sight,  L.D. kissed me and hissed something I couldn't make out and pointed to below her eye. "Non capito, " I whispered. She looked helplessly at her sister and they both whispered  and pointed to an area below their eyes until I finally got that they were saying they were here to keep an eye on the plumber. Because he steals? Because he will rip them off? Because he doesn't know the English word for glue? Because he has a habit of killing his customers? I didn't have enough Italian to ask and so the world will never know.

"Ah!" said L.D. and asked me if I had a picture of my son to show her sister. Her sister made nice noises but apparently was missing all that L.D. saw in him and so L.D. launched into a list of all his positive attributes: he was so handsome, he was so nice, he spoke Italian so well with such a good accent, he was so good at video games and only ate vegetable under duress. And then explained to her sister that I was an architetto. By which she meant interior designer. By which I insisted I was an editor and they asked how I spelled my name and further admired the photo of John.

And so the end result was that the new hot water heater was installed, L.D. and her sister left and the plumber unscrewed the water faucets to show me all the tiny rocks that were in them. ROCKS. "It is no good, " he said. "Roman water is very good but molto calcio." I must have looked puzzled, but really I was just horrified by the rocks. "Calcio," he repeated, "but not football! Sound same! But not!"

I asked him if he could install a filter to prevent the rocks and he could not. But luckily I had only to unscrew the faucets and occasionally dump out the rocks. No problem.

I thanked him for the new water heater and told him how nice it would be to always have hot water. "Not always," he said.

"Per che?" asked I. He told me that the hot water might not always always work because of the wind.

"The wind?" I asked in disbelief assuming we were having another miscommunication.

"The wind, " he assured me, demonstrating the definition of wind by puffing out his cheeks and blowing and ruffling the curtains, "it's normal. No problem."

The wind.

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