Recently the interphone in our building was replaced. I'm not entirely sure what the word in English is for interphone despite my native speaker status, since I've never lived anywhere in an English speaking country that needed one, but in case it's not interphone, I'm talking about the system through which a visitor to someone in a block of flats rings up to that flat, so that the resident can talk to them, make sure that they are the kind of visitor they want to have, and then press a button to open the door on the ground floor. You know what I'm on about, right?
Anyway, for well over a year now we've gone without one, since the old one had broken and nobody had thought to get it repaired. Or something. The ways of living in a block of flats are a bit incomprehensible to me - we have someone who is "responsible" for our building, whose role seems to be to pop round once a month to read the water meter. We also pay a monthly "common expenses" fee, which I assume covers things like repairs to the bits of the building which are not the individual flats, and for the salary of the cleaning woman who cleans the place on occasion. But aside from that I'm not sure how things work exactly. If the lift breaks down, for example, who does one call to get it sorted? I have no clue. For a year, in fact there was a window missing between the ground and the first floor (I think someone had nicked it - really). Obviously if you live in a climate with a winter as cold as this one, that's quite a serious problem.
So, the interphone was buggered, and the door was just open to anyone. This wasn't really a problem, except when you walk downstairs in the morning and find yourself struggling to negotiate a drunk lying on the landing, but this was a very rare occurrence. But recently, there was sudden activity, and one days some blokes came round and installed a new handset/button system in our flat (and, I assume, in everybody else's too). A few weeks later, they showed up again (not sure what they were doing in the intervening time period, but there you go) and installed a new box thingy and lock down at ground level. Then a week or so after that, the whole thing went live and the system was finally in place.
It's all very fancy - it works, for a start, which is a definite improvement on the previous system. It also has a codepad which means that one doesn't actually have a key to get in and out of the building one just types in ones code, and voila, the door opens. There are one or two little quibbles - like the fact that the ringing inside the flat is very loud, and it wakes everyone up. As we live in flat number 1, that is the one that the postman rings in the morning to get in and give everyone their mail. Obviously this wouldn't be a problem except for the fact that we have kids and its the summer holiday and they really don't need to be waking up at half past seven. So, anyway, now one of my nightly rituals is to turn it off, so that our phone doesn't ring at all in the morning until I turn it back on again.
The big flaw with the new system was revealed last Friday though. As we trundled home from work we noticed that the people who work in the shop in the next building were all sitting outside (perhaps enjoying the sun, we mused). When we arrived at our building though it became clear what was going on. There was a powercut. All the buildings in the block were out. And of course we don't have a key, we just have a code to type on a keypad which (you might have guessed) runs on electricity. So there was no way into the building...
Well, this is not entirely true, because we just called (via mobile phone) a neighbour to come downstairs and open the door for us, which we then jammed open for whoever came next. This is one of those modern-technology-saves-the-day-when-modern- technology-has-failed-you moments. There must be a word for that, since it seems like much of the world is relying on it to be the answer to global warming in some massive world-ending game of chicken (well, let's not bother trying to step back from the brink, somebody's bound to invent something soon which can reverse global warming sooner or later, so we can keep on polluting to our hearts' content)
Oh for the days of the simple key which you insert into a lock and turn.