Thursday, March 21, 2013

We're in hot water...finally!

Well, the kids pretty much captured the goings-on of our first day on the ground today. For me the most memorably part was trying to take a shower. We've got two bathrooms in our flat, one with a small shower tray and a curtain that borrows it's hanging mechanism from an old school hand-held fan--you know, the kind that opens up to a 1/3 to 1/2 circle, then closes back down to a stack of rods/sticks? The upstairs bath has a deep tub and a shower on a wand, but absolutely no curtain. Well anyway, Gretchen encouraged me to have the first go this morning.

Having lived in a variety of conditions in remote parts of Indonesia, I'm okay with whatever faces me when it comes to showers...and expectation of a hot shower in Europe this morning was, as it turns out, a bit out of line. It seemed to go from ice cold to not quite ice cold. Fortunately, I remember when we were shown the flat yesterday I recalled seeing a hot water heater about the size of a beer keg in a strange closet accessible by one of the landings on the stairwell.

Sure enough, I opened it up and saw this:

Keg-sized hot water heater (note where the needle is pointed).
I did in fact find the water heater, but the needle on its side was pointed directly downward! I wondered  if the shower, like the stove-top, required a separate gas switch for each use? That couldn't be...could it?

Of course, after crawling inside the closet (you need to pull a gymnastics move to get up into there), I poked around a little more and saw that both the water inlet valve and the gas valve were both in what looked to me like the open position (valves that rotate 1/4 is parallel with the pipe, closed is perpendicular to it). Of course, I then found an electrical switch which had markings on it, and I must confess, I wasn't sure which meant on or off. I chose to flip it where it wasn't...but nothing seemed to happen.

Switch in the "on" position.
So I kind of walked around a bit...explored the rest of the place to see if there were any other gas or plumbing-related oddities I didn't know about. When I came back, I started to hear (albeit very quietly) the sound of water heating up--like an electric teakettle. The only thing is that the needle was so slow to move that for the first 45 minutes or hour I had no idea if anything was happening. By the time we returned from the market and some exploration a few hours later, it had reached the position depicted above (which I hoped was good enough).

When we came back from dinner tonight, Hailey and Sean were the guinea pigs. We advised to be quick, and to their credit, both managed to have showers and both reported that the water was indeed hot! So, tomorrow morning...I get a nice hot shower!

This whole thing brings up some interesting questions about switches, interactions, affordances and feedback. It would have been nice if there was something that could have alerted me that the tank was "heating" so I needn't worry all day (even better if last night I got a reminder to turn on the hot water heater...), AND that Americans like myself may NOT understand "universal" symbols like those for on and off.

Perhaps tomorrow I'll write about the insane lock on the door and the number of stairs we climb every time we arrive and depart our flat! But for's bed time. 


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