Have you ever been in a situation where you’re really pissed off at your crappy circumstance, but at the same time find yourself hyper-aware of the fact that other people have it way way worse than you?
I’m not talking about ‘First World Problems’. When my phone dies and I have no charger, or I forget my laptop when headed for a weekend away – somewhere in the recesses of my mind I usually realize that yeah, I should be happy I have a phone and a laptop. But that’s not what I mean this time. To clarify:
I returned from my Saskatchewan Christmas holiday (the lesser known cheesy 80’s family show…) on January 1st. I didn’t want to leave, but once I was on the plane, my wants angled sharply toward just getting home to my nice little apartment, where my clothes are hanging in a closet, not stuffed in a suitcase and where, when I need to get into the bathroom, there isn’t someone else occupying it!
I had turned my heat down before I left to avoid wasting it, so I wasn’t surprised or irritated by the chill in my unit. That is, until I was part way through unpacking and realized that the chill wasn’t going away, that the thermometer was still sulking ominously at the far left of the thermostat. Excellent.
It was New Years Day though, and 8 pm to boot, and I knew that nothing would get dealt with that night. So I cocooned myself inside a cozy blanket underneath my duvet and spent the night in relative warmth, comforted by the thought that it was just a glitch. When I woke up the next morning, all would be well.
Not so much. The next morning it was still freezing. Possibly even more freezing. As soon as the rental office was open, I ran across the street to report my issue. The agent there promised to send maintenance over right away.
The maintenance guy found a burst pipe in my radiator (oh, that explained the water on the floor…), and he and a plumber set about replacing it. Long (long, long) story short, it wasn’t just a burst pipe – it was a number of iced up passages all throughout the building and I wasn’t the only one without heat.
Cut to three days later. I’m sitting here toasty warm in my hotel room a few blocks from my apartment. Half of the suites in my building still have no heat. So back to the question I posed.
I am lucky to have parents awesome enough, and well off enough, to put me up in a hotel for a couple days until my apartment is no longer colder than the inside of my fridge (honest-to-goodness). But I live in a low-income part of town, in a building occupied – largely – by low-income people.
There has been no offer by the building owners or landlords to pay for hotel rooms, nor have any heaters been passed around. (I was granted one the second night but it was a piece of crap and, I assume, the only one.) Most of the tenants in my building are sitting there, bundled up in every sweater and bulky pair of socks they own, shivering on the couch watching TV.
This is how I imagine them at least, because it’s what I did the first day – it was all I could do. It’s too cold to have your hands uncovered for more than a few minutes; forget about chopping veggies for supper, or working at the computer. To make matters even more story-worthy, yesterday there was a massive blizzard, during which everything more than six feet away was obscured by wickedly blowing snow. Forget running out to pick up a heater, or pizza for supper.
I’ll be holed up in my rented room until my suite is habitable. But others are stuck in their equally uninhabitable suites with no alternative.
How’s that for lucky? I might be seriously annoyed at my unfortunate situation, but at least I can feel my toes.