Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Annals of Stupidity, Part 2, or St. Anthony Saves the Day

We had no heat yesterday afternoon, due to the construction in the building. It was freezing and miserable. I could write a separate blog about what we've suffered from that project for the past four months:
  • Endless banging, drilling, sawing, hammering, yelling, singing, fighting, and generator noise, from 7 to about 4
  • Weeks without heat
  • Days without water, with only a few minutes' notice
  • Massive amounts of dirt and dust pouring into our condo from 37 tons of demolition and the ensuing mess. It's still filtering in.
  • Days and nights with 90-degree heat from the malfunctioning new $8,000 boiler we were persuaded to get, replacing our reliable 30-year-old boiler
  • No electricity for many hours, with no notice
  • Men using the backyard as a bathroom, in plain sight
  • Unlocked building doors, and ladders left at open windows at night, welcoming the very active local burglars
  • A filthy lobby—also under construction
  • Broken doorbells for three months
  • I'm allergic to tree pollens and enzymes, including those in fresh lumber, so I've been sneezing, and sniffling, unable to breathe easily for months. I have bleeding ulcers in my nose now.
  • One of our cats got inflammatory bowel disease, likely from the stress of the demolition, which was horribly loud, and went on for days while we were traveling. We've spent thousands trying to diagnose and treat her; she's finally improving. But the ongoing noise isn't helping.
  • Workmen coming into our apartment almost every day to fix doors that have shifted, locks that won't work, radiators that need adjustment, and so much more, all caused by ongoing construction.
I endure, one day at a time—beginning at 7 am sharp, when the first guy starts waling the tar out of something a few feet beneath our bed. Right now, I'm listening to power-sawing, hammering, and a guy belting "My Way." 

They say it will improve when soundproofing insulation goes in, but they've been promising that for two months. Right now, there's only 3/4 of an inch of wood between us and the noise and dirt. Working with that much racket is next to impossible. So I start writing my freelance articles after they leave, and stay up as late as I can, always long after midnight. But then they wake me up too early. I'm clearly sleep deprived. 

To return to my story... I did another dumb thing yesterday. But I was saved.

Having no heat on one of the coldest days of the season is so typical around here that we barely complained. I'd returned from a tough class at the gym, and was chilled to the bone, so I decided to take a bath instead of a shower, because it seemed like the only way to warm up. I filled our deep soaking tub with bubbles and got in up to my chin. It took a long time to get warm because the air was so frosty that it cooled off the surface of the water. 

Then I had a contact lens attack. This always happens in the most inconvenient places, like on an icy street at night. But it had never happened during a bath before. I took out the lens, and it slipped from my wet hand into the bubbles.

A gas-permeable contact lens, tinted gray, looks exactly like a bubble. There were millions of bubbles in the tub; many of them looked like a contact lens.  It was also a perfect match for the color of the water.  I spent 10 minutes hunting, half-blind, then called my husband for help. We worried that it had floated into the overflow drain. I was starting to shrivel up and get cold when my husband said he needed to leave for an appointment. I asked him to hand me my glasses and lens case so I could see.

Then I remembered Saint Anthony. All over Italy and Paris, we visited churches and lit candles, and I usually chose Saint Anthony's statue for mine. He's the patron saint of lost items and takes his job seriously.  I've kept him busy in my time. I was raised Catholic but I no longer practice, and I am deeply cynical about almost all things religious. But not Saint Anthony. 

I'm not alone in this. A couple of years ago, I found a wallet on Boylston Street, brimming with cash and credit cards. It belonged to a woman who lived on Marlborough Street, so I looked up her number, and she came running in a few minutes. I handed her the wallet, and she gave me a hug, saying, "I prayed to Saint Anthony!" In the North End, this wouldn't seem out of place; in Back Bay, it was more striking. Together we marveled at how he always comes through.

So, in the tub, I made a short, earnest plea. My husband brought my lens case, and I took my hands out of the water and popped out my lens. Then I noticed something strange: I had TWO contact lenses in my hand. The one I'd just removed was where it should have been (and was slowly heading toward the tub in my wet palm, I'm sorry to say). The missing lens was clinging to my thumb. 

What are the chances? It was a miracle. Saint Anthony did it again.


  1. I feel your pain (although for different reasons). One question: does the entire bldg have one boiler, or did this person demand you replace the boiler for your unit? If for your unit - I'm having trouble understanding why you agreed to do it!! Depending on the situation, I would make this person reimburse you because I can't think of any reason why you should or could be forced by an Association member to replace a boiler for your own unit.

  2. Just came to your blog via UniversalHub. Your neighbor should be doing everything he/she can to make things better for you. I went through the same thing and I let my neighbor know, politely, what a living hell it was for me underneath. Next day I received from them a very nice gift certificate for a great restaurant nearby, and a couple more during the rest of the buildout. I should admit that well before the gift certificates, I pulled a couple of their fuses every night from the basement fusebox. If polite conversation doesn't so anything, this should be tried.

  3. Wow, this sounds really unpleasant. Can you complain to Inspectional Services, assuming the owner had construction permits pulled? It seems like more than just inconvenience, if you are living without heat.


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