Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Climate change

I spent the better part of my young adult years living in drafty apartments. The drafts didn’t matter much when I was in college, mainly because my college was in Texas and the winters didn’t last that long to begin with. Then I moved to Paris, where draftiness is a way of life, so I sucked it up and shivered along with everybody else. Winter after winter I would turn on my crappy electric wall heaters, complain about their inefficiency, then get that first electric bill of the season and decide that I’d rather just freeze. At some point I went and bought a portable space heater, which I would aim at my feet while hunkering over a bowl of coffee in the morning and then cuddle up with on the couch in the evening. Then I met G., who is a sort of human radiator, which helped (somewhat). But hey, winter in Paris only lasts what, six months? Eight at the most?

But who’s counting?

Then we moved to the suburbs and discovered collective heating. Gone are the hefty electric bills, as it’s simply factored into our rent, and the day it was turned on my memories of being even remotely cold indoors instantly vanished. Why? Because our floorboards kick out so much heat that we could pretty much dress in swimwear all winter long and be just fine. Our jar of Nutella has melted for Pete’s sake. I don’t know who exactly decides what temperature our apartment is heated to, but I suspect our neighbors across the landing. They’ve had it in for us ever since that first week when my husband pounded one little nail into a piece of Ikea furniture at midnight. Look, we’re sorry we woke up your daughter, OK? No need to try to slowly roast us into moving. Besides, it won’t work; I LIKE the heat. I think it’s exotic living in a subtropical microclimate while freezing rain pelts the windows. Seriously, we could grow palm trees in here.

Heatwave! This is our island in the sun...

Which is why I was surprised when our pet cactus up and died on us. One would think the constant dry heat would be ideal for desert plants. Alas, no. We felt bad disposing of it, as it was our first living purchase since moving into our new home and all. But much like a Christmas tree in February, its time had come. And much like a Christmas tree in February, getting rid of it was no easy task. You can’t just throw out a giant cactus, at least not around this town. We have a neighbor who actually refers to herself, with pride, as La Responsable Poubelles (“Trashcan Manager”). She rang our doorbell at 9:00 am two days after our arrival, just to point out that we newcomers obviously didn’t know how to handle our trash properly (our empty cardboard boxes were soi-disant taking up too much room in the recycling bin). Our own real-life Oscar the Grouch. Neat.

What did you expect, a fruit basket?

Anyway, so not wanting to elicit the wrath of Madame Trashcan, we didn’t dare just chuck the cactus into the communal bin. Luckily, we didn’t have to: in a flash of insight, I recalled an incident from days long ago, when I had had to resort to hacking the limbs off a long-dead Christmas tree using a pair of desk scissors in order to fit it down the trash chute. I thus decided that pocket-sawing the cactus into smaller pieces and then bagging them Dexter-style could be a possibility. It was a gruesome task, what with the dull saw, frothy cactus juice spatters and my conscience, but it’s been a week and no knock on the door, so I dare say we got away with it. Besides, does she really want to go head to head with a scantily-clad American chick who has no fingerprints (read: who could be a professional assassin if she were more discreet)? I didn’t think so.