Cold water, hot tempers

So I went to take a shower on Thursday night, and discovered that I had no hot water. When I woke up on Friday morning, I confirmed that the hot water had not magically returned. During my lunch break on Friday, I called my building’s management office to find out what the story was.

The conversation went something like this:

me: Hi there, I live at _____, and there was no hot water in my apartment either last night or this morning.

receptionist (or whoever she is): We’re aware of the problem, and it should be fixed within a few hours.

me: so, a few hours from now, I’ll have hot water again?

receptionist: yes.

So I decided not to swing by the gym on the way home – which was my backup plan for how to take a hot shower before heading off to shul (synagogue) on Friday night.

Turns out I should have swung by the gym. But I didn’t know that yet as I approached my building. I didn’t like the look of the gas company trucks parked outside, though. That didn’t seem promising.

The nearest truck had two guys sitting in back, dangling their legs over the edge. They looked like they were taking a break from their work. “So,” I said as I approached. “I take it that, if you’re here, we still don’t have hot water?” I asked the question with a smile, I think. At the very least, my tone was friendly.

Their immediate response was something along the lines of, “Whoa! Don’t yell at us!”

Within a minute or two, they had explained to me that a) they had nothing to do with the hot water, since the water heater ran on oil, not gas, and b) unlike me, some other tenants from my building had been yelling at them – actually yelling. That’s why they’d started out so defensive.

I also found out that, despite the fact that they had nothing to do with the lack of hot water, they had spoken with the super, so they knew exactly what the problem was: the building had run out of oil. Apparently, or so they told me, the building is in the process of switching over to gas and away from oil. Because of this, they don’t want to keep the oil tank full, since they expect to stop using it soon, which was why this “keeps happening.”

Wait – this has happened before?

On the one had, this was not an encouraging thought. On the other hand, it was good to know that a) there was a simple fix. Nothing was broken. The building just needed more oil and b) there’s a chance this may happen again – and will be similarly easy to fix.

Now, two nights later, we have hot water again. I’m not so thrilled that “a few hours” meant roughly a day, but I’m glad they didn’t, for example, wait until Monday to get the oil refilled.

I’ve also been thinking about my exchange with the gas company workers. I was polite to them, where others had yelled. The question I asked them was one of curiosity: “So, no hot water yet?” I was ready to laugh it off, and thank them for working on it, maybe ask them how long they thought it would take, just so I’d know what to expect. In exchange, I got information. It was different than what I expected, but it was useful. I wonder whether the people who yelled at them got anything beyond, “Hey, it’s not our fault. It’s the oil! Now, [insert colorful language here]!”

I’m glad I didn’t yell at them. They didn’t deserve it, and besides, not yelling got me further than yelling would have. That’s often how it works, I’ve found. A little politeness can go a long way toward getting you what you want — even if it didn’t bring my hot water back any more quickly.



  1. Judy

    Good job. I try not to yell at people because it is usually not their fault!!

  2. Also, a nice show of good middos for the new year… Being mentschlich pays off…

  3. Terri

    fyi: if this really is a frequent problem, you may want to call 311 and report the building. I’m 99% positive that hot water is one of your legal rights as a tenant (ie something you can withhold rent for if you aren’t getting.) I’m not suggesting you take it that far, but it seems like the building management company needs a little encouragement to manage their resources more efficiently.

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