Tuesday, December 7, 2004

the winter lightsLet the holidays begin! The weather has been peevish these past few days, alternating between rain and snow and bitter, bitter cold. What better way to celebrate the arrival of winter than by putting lights in all the windows?

Life in this small town continues to have its amusements. The week before Thanksgiving, I noticed it was getting mighty cold at KR headquarters. I looked at the thermostat and discovered that it was set for 62 but the room was barely hitting 50. Time to call the town plumber for an apartment call.

So I did. And nothing happened. So I called again. And nothing happened. I called a third time and happened to get Emily, our old postmistress who retired earlier this year - much to everyone's chagrin - but after a week of doing nothing took a job with the plumber to keep herself out of trouble.

She found the owner, who told me that the boiler was dead. Apparently someone had come out and shut it off because it was filled with water. And apparently that same someone forgot to mention any of this to me or the building's owner. I'm not quite sure what they thought I planned to do for heat this winter, but it obviously didn't include thermostats.

A few days after that call, still without news of my fate, several of his crew members came by to drain the pipes in the building. This would keep the pipes from freezing, later bursting, and destroying all my cards, which was good. But it also meant he could take his time replacing the boiler, since there was nothing at stake. (Making someone work in a heatless, bathroomless building apparently isn't cause for concern around here.)

Sure enough, more than two weeks passed without heat in the building before they finally came back and installed the new boiler. And especially now as the temps remain in the high teens, I'll never take heating for granted again.

The problem is that this plumber has a monopoly on the town. If you try to call a plumber in another town to ask for help, they'll refer you back to this guy. You never know if it's out of professional respect or fear.

Same goes for all the other service-oriented professions. People from away tend to hire a team of tough and capable locals to perform upkeep and maintenance on their summer properties. But when things go south, they won't fire the guys for fear they'll burn their houses down. So they just keep paying them. It's one of the weirdest dynamics I've encountered.

So if you're ever thinking of leaving the big city and moving to a small town, remember that the smaller you get, the fewer choices you have. And the better you'll need to get along with people, because they're in limited and perpetually in-your-face supply.

That's where my thoughts are on this icy evening.

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