Monday, July 16, 2007

Cold Shower, Anyone?

Potentially as an antidote to the hordes of scantily-clad gorgeous devushki roaming the streets of Moscow in summer, the local government mandates cold showers for everyone in the city for a month during summer.

Seriously, a little-known fact to those of you who don't live in Moscow (but is unsurprisingly ubiquitous knowledge within), is that both the heat and hot water services in Moscow (and most ex-Soviet cities) are centrally controlled by the government (come to think of it, like pretty much everything else in Russia... {sigh}).

The impact of this is that one fine day in October, regardless of the actual temperature, one's apartment will start to perform it's best impression of the Chernobyl-4 reactor, necessitating open windows and air conditioning throughout winter, despite -30 outdoor temperatures.

Perhaps to counter this excessive overheating, to prevent heatstroke among Moscow's resilient elderly babushki, to make Moscow's metro in rush hour event more fragrant with slavic pheremones, or to make the population a little more pliant ahead of elections, the city's hot water is shut off for about a month each summer, region by region. (Actually, I've heard it's to service the pipes, but I'm sure this is just propaganda).

So I woke up one fine morning last week, already not at my most timely for work, to find a complete lack of hot water. Thinking that my fine company would not leave me in a hot-water-free apartment, I immediately performed a detailed cupboard-by-cupboard search of my apartment & it's surrounds. This left a soggy trail of footprints and bubbles through my apartment and Stalinist-chic hallways, leaving my poor cleaner certain that I must have embarked on an impromptu mid-shower melange of drop-the-soap and hide-&-seek.

Despite startling neighours & dust bunnies, and a brief tool pillaging of Citigroup's building maintenance team, I was left trying to decipher a maze of Babylonian complexity, as the post-Soviet engineers had attempted to introduce my boiler into the building's existing infrastructure with an over-engineered system of valves that would make my high-school physics teacher proud.

By using the anguished yelps and loud Russian curses from around the building as a form of crude sonar as I worked the valves, I was able to identify the right sequence to connect my boiler to my shower without (hopefully) depriving anyone else of water or heat. Hopefully I'll be able to reverse the process without mishap next month!

Btw, in case you're interested, I took the photo at the top of this post from my bedroom of the bar across the street from me which had even more Ferarri's, Bentley's and Hummers in front than usual last week.

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