April 2, 2010

It must be the full moon.

My 80 year old landlady just let herself in to my apartment - a behaviour that echoes past traumas for me, but is much more harmless in its Austrian than in its Greek form - and saw me standing in our living room-cum-bedroom in the midst of packing for my trip to Brussels wearing nothing but a bra and some 22-year-old-girl-who-lives-with-her-boyfriend-sized underpants. Thank God, at least, that I had already listened to the whole Taylor Swift album and was no longer singing at the top of my lungs. As I darted behind the mirror (propped up against a chair) and frantically looked for something to cover up with, she advanced through the kitchen and into my dressing room. She stood in front of me - at this point I am lamely holding my inside out bright red McGill hoodie in front of my body - and said, matter of factly, "It's a bit cold in here, no?" before beginning to explain her reasons for entering the apartment in the first place, the light in the hallway, which was incorrectly repaired this morning. Should I really be surprised anymore? This is, after all, the land of bathroom doors made of glass.

I knew there was some big cosmic joke being played (on April Fools, no less) when, after a full, long day of renovating, having finally finished applying plaster to the raw material of our bedroom walls - a thankless and messy job - I had just got out of the shower (once again, a small mercy) and was in the kitchen when I heard a crash and then a swear. Christian was upstairs in the bedroom still, and when I reached the stairwell, it was dark. As a last step in our plaster application, we had removed the light fixture from the ceiling, and as he finished up the job, Christian wisely decided to bend the exposed wires away from the floor-- when they touched. It wasn't just a blown fuse. The fuse box for our entire second floor was rendered completely useless-- and once again, sheer luck is what saved us from going to bed without dinner, because the kitchen and living room are on a separate grid downstairs.

As I made our late dinner - at this point it was already about 10 pm - Christian figured out that the master fuse box in the stairwell contained the switch that would reactivate ours, but this box was locked. When a trip out to the hallway and an internet search revealed that to have someone come open this locked case would cost us 76 Euro that night or 36 Euro the next morning, Christian showered in the dark, then came down determined to learn how to pick the lock and solve our problem DIY-style. It was this decision that indirectly lead to the darkness spreading to the stairwell: while attempting to reset the switch for our second floor with a knife stuck through a crack, C. accidentally flicked the wrong switch, and the hallway and stairwell lights went out.

This changed our situation; we had now - however inadvertently - made our problem the whole building's problem. Our landlady leaves the building at 6 am. Even if we were going to call the electrician, it wouldn't have been before then. So, if she were to call the electrician regarding the problem before we had the chance... what could we do to stop her? The snag in the stocking was that the electrician would inevitably see that our fuse was blown as well, and if he were to mention this to Frau Poltsch, it wouldn't take much of an effort to connect the two occurrences.

Which is why, at 5:30 pm, about 8 hours after Christian went upstairs and realized that the lights were, in fact, on again, without any calls having been made on our parts, as my landlady advanced through my apartment without invitation, my heart was beating quickly not only because I was significantly less than half dressed.

"Ist dein Schatzi da?" she asked me, looking at my face. "No, he's at work. He'll be home in about an hour," I said. "Is something wrong?" My face, other than surprise, hopefully exuding innocence. "The light in the stairwell was out this morning," she said. "Oh?" "The electrician came to repair it and he must have done something wrong, because now it won't go out anymore." "It's not working again?" I ask, because I haven't entirely understood her German here. "It's supposed to come on for 8 minutes and then go out again," she explains. "Well anyway, if your Schatzi isn't home..." I ask if there is anything to do, but she seems resigned. I don't really know what she wanted Christian to do about it anyway, since I know very well that it is impossible to get into the box without the key, but I can't say this to her and betray more intimate knowledge of the box than I should have. "Is there anything I can do?" I offer. "No, thank you. Wiederschauen." Phew. And then I got dressed.


XIUMING said...

omg cliff hanger!