Power Games

A late note: some of you are having problems viewing the blog in Internet Explorer, having to scroll down to see the post. After noodling around with HTML and invoking the Tech God, my best guess is that the problem should be fixed if you update to IE 7. If that doesn't help, let me know and I'll keep bashing away at it.


On Sunday, Toronto Hydro was doing something technical in my neighborhood which necessitated turning of the power for two 1-hour periods during the day. One early in the morning while I was sleeping (because I refuse to get up early on the weekends) and another one in the middle of the afternoon. I was actually looking forward to the afternoon session - no power means no computer which means lollygagging with a clear conscience.

A little before two o'clock, I turned off the computer and a few minutes later, the power disappeared as promised. Faced with an entire hour of doing exactly what I wanted, it went something like this:

I decide to watch a movie. Except the power is out, so the TV doesn't work. No problem! I'll just make a cup of t… no, I won't, because the microwave isn't working, either. Right then. I'll grab my iPod - charged the night before, because occasionally I'm pretty clever (despite current evidence to the contrary) - and go to the park! At which point I realize that no power means that my automatic door isn't going to open, so I am effectively trapped in my apartment. Probably not a horrible thing to have happen, as it’s almost 40°C with the humidex outside - for those more familiar with the Fahrenheit scale, that's really, really warm. So I decide to just sit quietly in the nice, air-conditioned… no, not that either, but not because the A/C doesn't work when the power is out. No, on the hottest day of the year, one with record-breaking temperatures, the building’s air conditioning is not working. Nevermind! I can just turn on a fan… alright, FINE!! Argh! I will sit quietly and listen to my iPod, while attempting to not melt into a puddle.

And this excursion into power and its uses reminded me of the McPhee furnace wars. Every year, I attempt to participate and every year, Stephanie tells me that as I live in an apartment, I don't qualify. I whine and wheedle, but she is intractable in claiming that being surrounded by other apartments in which the dwellers presumably turn on the heat means that they effectively heat my unit, too. The bylaw that requires landlords to provide enough heat that public areas are 21°C during the winter doesn't help either. At this point I bring out what I believe is the big guns, namely that one entire wall of my apartment faces north (the direction from which bitter winter winds come flying down from the arctic) and consists almost entirely of windows, some of which are not exactly totally tight, yet she remains unmoved and I remain frustrated when she tells me that she has turned on the heat at last and I have yet to touch my thermostat.

However, I would like to take the following to a popular vote:

A City of Toronto bylaw stipulates that landlords must provide heat between September 15 and June 1. As the machinery which provides heat in our building also provides air conditioning, it cannot provide both at the same time. As of June 1, when the A/C was turned on, there is no heat available and based not just on the lack of its presence in my building, but on the existence of the Toronto bylaw, it is reasonable to state that the heating season is therefore officially over. During the entirety of said heating season, I did not turn on my heat. Not once, relying instead on handknit socks, blankets and luring the cat onto my lap. Regardless of what that says about the amount of heat available from surrounding units and the hallway on my floor, I think living through the winter from hell without going near your thermostat is still something.

What you think – does that at least qualify me as a participant in the furnace wars?

Much as I am having a small - tiny, really - issue related to some degree of competitiveness, having lived through 8 1/2 months with no heat makes me feel a little less guiltridden about turning on the air conditioner for the four months of summer (when it is not broken, that is). I figure my carbon footprint has shrunk a fair bit this year, which is better than winning the wars and I’ll attempt to rest comfortably (and virtuously) in that knowledge when Stephanie refuses my application for the 2008/09 skirmish.

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