A disgruntled librarian packs it up and leaves fabulous New York City behind,
going on random global adventures,
while simultaneously promoting literacy
and spreading the love of the written word.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

not quite a hanukkah miracle

so not to be rude or disrespectful, but i've been noticing that things here in argentina are made in a way ... oh, how to say it politely ... like crap.  we have this thing in our kitchen called a calefactor.  the calefactor heats, or is supposed to heat, the water in the apartment.  it is a simple idea, really.  there is a pilot light which is to remain lit all the time as a signal that gas is not leaking into your apartment slowly killing you.  then, when it is time to use hot water, there is a great whooshing of flames inside the calefactor which immediately heat the water you are using.  simple, right?

here are the problems:
1.  often the pilot light goes out for no reason.  we have told numerous handymen this, but they say that the problem is not the innocent calefactor but the fact that the calefactor is so close to the kitchen window.  obviously, it must be a breeze from the kitchen window which we keep CLOSED AT ALL TIMES that is blowing out the pilot light.  i ask you, why put this thing near a window then?  and why is  it constructed in a way that a small passing breeze could blow out the flame in the first place?  sometimes, and this is my favorite, when someone tries to use the hot water and the calefactor actually works, the whooshing of the flames is so intense that the wind that the fire creates (or lack of wind?) actually puts out the pilot light.  ironic, isn't it?

2.  frequently (usually in the morning when i am trying to take a shower before work) even if they pilot light is lit, the flames do not catch, and then the gas is going but it's not on fire, and therefore it is not heating the water.  when this happens, you need to go over to the calefactor and turn the knob ever so slightly, testing it out in each position, until you are able to find that magic spot where the gas will actually catch fire (please note: the magic spot is different every time).

so recently we had a handyman in to "fix" the calefactor.  and for about 5 days we actually didn't have any problems.  the pilot light stayed lit, and when we turned on the hot water, the calefactor automatically began heating the water, without any fidgeting or fussing.  AMAZING!  it was, as the bolshevik brought to my attention, quite nearly a buenos aires hanukkah miracle.  but as we approached the eighth day, with fingers crossed that the pilot light could stay lit for eight whole miraculous days without needing to be attended to by us or a technician, what happened? ... the calefactor failed us!  and now we are back to this (several times a day) ...


  1. It was things like plumbing that I missed about the US. Toilets that work and showers that have pressure. We had one of those heaters (in England and in Spain) that heated water "on demand" but it was intermittent and was basically a fireball with a pipe going through it. And, yes, everything is made of crap! My parents were always going on about that in the 80s to the annoyance of our Greek relativrs.

  2. This brings back memories of a boiler in a place I lived in back in the 90s in Brixton, London. The boiler was fitted low down in the back of a deep hallway closet, so that I had to do all of the above whilst lying flat on the filthy floor. I have never in my life prayed with such regularity or deep spiritual anguish as I did over that boiler. Greg (friend of Spiro)

  3. That is just incredibly frustrating!

  4. spiro, your father would be beside himself if he saw how things here are built. i haven't even gone into our bathroom plumbing issues!

    greg, i can already tell that the problem with your boiler was that the pilot light was probably going out due to the strong breezes that you created every time you'd push the hangers in the closet to one side, or pull a board game down from a shelf ;)