Monday, September 30, 2013

Romanian Vignettes

There is a system of heating and hot water in Romania, whereby for the (many) blocks of flats, there is a centralised building where they heat the water and pump it around the buildings, providing hot water all year long and heating in the winter. The heating gets turned on round about October 1st and turned off again in April.  (Round here anyway, down in some of the warmer parts of the country these dates may be different).

Now this system would actually be quite a good one, were it not for the fact that the facilities and infrastructure are old and they've never been updated since the communists built them.  So there is massive inefficiency, and loads of leaks and so on.  So the amount of money you pay each month for your heating and hot water is not related that closely to how much you've used.  Because of this most people try to get off the system and install their own gas boiler water/heating system, so that they only pay for what they use.

Our apartment was already off the grid when we bought it, and has been for something like 10 years, but because the pipes run through our flat we still have to pay something.  (When we first moved in they were all clad in insulation so we didn't pay that money, but then the law changed, so we took off the insulation - since we were paying anyway.  But I digress).

Last week, the one remaining apartment on our side of the building that still used the central system, installed their own system, and someone from the building came round telling us that we could finally get rid of the pipes and stop paying the (ridiculously large) monthly amount of money.  As ours is the lowest apartment in the building (one floor up above some shops), it was decided that it made sense if the pipes would be cut and capped in our apartment.

So, last week the blokes came around and sawed off all ten pipes that ran through our apartment, bottom and top, and welded them shut.  It was a surprisingly quick and not too disruptive a job. Until another resident of the building from some floors higher up on the other side, came in to see what was going on and got very upset because she said that the system went up one side of the building and then back down the other side, so when the heating was turned on (a) they wouldn't get any; and (b) we'd all get flooded by all the water going round the system.  

Now, it is at this point that the story becomes a truly Romanian* story. Because when we asked the workmen if it was possible that she was right, their answer was not "No, that's not a problem, we would never have cut these pipes if that could happen", but instead.  "Hmm.  We have no idea.  I guess we'd better check". 

(*By which I mean a story that takes place in Romania, rather than a story that is Romanian in its ethnicity :-) )

[Turns out that they did need to do some work up on the top floor to ensure that this problem didn't arise, but it wasn't the absolute clusterfuck that it would have been if they'd needed to re-install the pipes that they had just removed.  But it is a good job that the neighbour checked]

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