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West End Girls (Now with Fewer Socks)

November 23, 2010

Today’s post title may seem like a stretch, but in fact it’s extra appropriate because I’m applying for a job at a pet shop, so suck it.

I thought the heat was out in my building yesterday. It may be true that the heat is out in the hallway, because the thermostat is set to 26 and it’s like 14 out there. But it turns out that, contrary to what I have spent the past four months believing, there actually is a heater in my apartment. Having done a thorough search of the premises back in the summer and found no thermostat, I concluded that there wasn’t one in here, that the thermostat in the hallway controlled the temperature in the whole building. While this struck me as strange initially, I came to believe that it made sense: Vancouver was pretty temperate, and a studio apartment was pretty much one room, so this place neither required nor deserved anything so extravagant as a heater of its own.

(There was, in my living room, a slightly-protruding metal dealie with slats at the top of it, and although it was painted yellowy-whitey like every other surface in here, it sure as hell looked like a heater–but as there was no switch or knob on it, I wrote it off as a no-longer-functional relic from an earlier age of the building. An ironic appliance. Worked for me. Matched the matching pair of curtainless curtain hooks and the lightless light switch. It had been communicated to me that there were a lot of “cute” buildings in the West End, and I chose to interpret all of these features as exempla of said cuteness.)

So yesterday when I said the heat was out, what I meant was that the heat was working perfectly fine but my heater was turned off. Turns out it’s one of those old-timey steam heaters, at the bottom of which, hidden almost completely in a recess deep in the bowels of the fixture’s right-hand corner, is a black knob made out of that weird kind of plastic that plastic knobs used to be made out of. I was hesitant to reach for it, as the spot right above the heater knob must be spider central. The area beneath the heater is almost impossible to vacuum and cobweb remnants are reliably present in that space. So, warily, praying for Charlottelessness, I reached forth my hand and jiggled the knob, then cranked it to the left, having had the expression “righty tighty, lefty loosey” drilled into me by an instructor several times in class this year. As I did so I was treated to a mental image of Steve, the surly sound guy, banging the artistic director. (I have learned so much since I arrived here in January. It’s mind-blowing really.)

And… Behold the marvel of steam!

I should be down to two socks in no time. And I couldn’t be more relieved that I didn’t call the landlord to ask why the heat wasn’t working. Another of yesterday night’s mental images was one of him coming up and spending five minutes slowly and gently walking me through the process of knob-turning. “And if you turn it to the right…the heat goes off. You see?”

Instead, I figured it out myself. And it only took four months. I am a credit to my gender.

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