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Counters January 26, 2009

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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The Russian doesn’t realise that the world will end if he turns on the heating at random. I don’t mean because the ice-caps will melt and the oceans will rise and the only habitable place on earth will be a very crowded and inhospitable peak somewhere in the Himalayas. Though perhaps I could factor that worry in too. No, he doesn’t realise that all sorts of chaos will be unleashed on an unsuspecting humanity if he just struts elephantinely up to a radiator and, terrifyingly, turns it on at random.

Whereas I, like any sane person, of course have to have a radiator on a setting. They go from 0 to 5. Obviously, strikingly so, a radiator can only be switched on to a whole number. Or, if I’m feeling very, very devil-may-care, a radiator could just about conceivably be switched on to 2 and a half. 3 and a half. But the Russian will happily – happily, I tell you. He even laughs maniacally after he’s done it and puts on an eye-patch – and nonchalantly turn the knob without even looking and walk away and get on with something else like ironing the bills or filing the tea. Once he is safely out of sight, I will approach the radiator with trepidation, as if approaching a ticking bomb.

2 and a quarter! 4 and a seventh! Not even on a notch. The arrow might not even be aligned to anything at all. Just looking blankly at a bit of white plastic, between black lines crying out to be aligned against to save the world from instant chaos. I take a few deep breaths and gingerly adjust the dial to a world-saving setting. No doubt, on each and every occasion, getting there in the nick of time.

I rush to the bathroom to get a cloth to apply to my forehead. The veins in my temples will be throbbing. I will cry from relief at having saved the world again. Suppress narcissistic thoughts along the lines of, “…and what thanks do I get, eh?” And try to regain my composure. I turn the hot water on but instantly sense that all is not right with the world. Bracing myself for the worst, I turn my head slowly to the right.

“Oh god, no!” the water-heater will be on 3 and a bit. “Jesus H….” but there’s so little time left to save the world that I don’t even get to finish the exclamation. I hurl the dial to 3 or 4, depending on whether I’ve been paid or not, and dread to open the bathroom door. The chances are, after all, that the whole world will have collapsed. Descended to a pile of dusty rubble. The bathroom will stand, the only man-made structure surviving, in recognition of my attempts at good-deedery, on a spindly pinnacle of rock… Yet I must have just got there in the nick of time once again. The bathroom doesn’t open out onto a scene of devastation and lifelessness. The dingy corridor is just where it’s always been.

I dash to find the Russian. This has gone on long enough. I plan to have it out with him.

He is busy filing the tea.

“Darling, you switched a radiator on to 2 and a seventh. And the water-heater was on 3 and twelve seventeenths. How can you be so disrespectful of human life? Don’t you care about humanity’s fate? This is probably why Russia’s history is so troubled. Democracy won’t just flourish with irregular settings left willy-nilly in flats everywhere.”

“ByeeB, I no khev time diskaas zis now. I filink ze tea.” And he cackles a cackly laugh and puts an eye-patch over his second eye.

I repair to my quarters, close the door for the peace and quiet I need to mull over the fact that fate has thrown me together with the world’s most dangerous man, and ponder the future. I begin to give in to self-pity. What bad luck. To be thrown into the maleficent arms of the world’s most recklessly uncaring man. But I glean a sliver of bright light. It may be my bad fortune to have to adjust dials for all eternity, but then, aren’t I fortunate to feel the glow of good-deedery that saving the world so god-damned often brings? And then, if we’re counting our blessings, I have to be grateful that the Russian is the only person on the planet who has the disorder of not turning radiators and water-heaters to numerically succinct settings!

The quandary solved, I switch on the TV to clear my head. To let worries be driven out by images and noises of vapid, empty nothingness. I go to adjust the volume. With only minor dread. I mean, surely he couldn’t have… Surely he wouldn’t be so evil as to… To not have the volume on a setting divisible by 5. I press the volume button. 17!

“Oh, god, no!”

Keep your fingers crossed that I keep making it on time.


1. varske - January 26, 2009

What a civilised Russian, he knows about controls. Most people who grew up in the CIS think you control heating by opening the window, and assume the heating should always be on full. In fact it’s not just the CIS, my sister does that and she lives in Slovenia.

Of course they are technically right, because there are no valves on the radiator, no individual boilers to switch on and off, and (what’s more iniquitous) no incentive to care. Except now in Lithuania, where the cost of heat is now approaching the same as the rent.

2. annie - January 26, 2009

So it’s not turning the heat up, but the fact that the setting’s not on a round number, that bothers you?


3. annie - January 26, 2009

Sorry, I immediately felt bad about that comment. Only pulling your leg, dear BiB.

4. Tim Footman - January 26, 2009

What’s the Russian for Obsessive-Compulsive?

5. Mr D - January 26, 2009

I immediately checked all our radiators. All’s safe and well – phew! It seems the Russian hasn’t been down to Stuttgart to wreak his havoc.

Keep up the good work, BiBman!

6. marshaklein - January 27, 2009

Oh how I feel your pain! I’m quite capable of spending vast amounts of time arranging our various TV/DVD remote controls in size order and making sure that the glass siding door on the TV cabinet is slid all the way to the right (or left – just not left haphazardly in the middle!) only to have my horrible family come home and ‘re-arrange’ everything AS IF IT DIDN’T MATTER! I shall have to check all our radiators tonight. How is the world to be saved with such recklessness in it???

7. headbang8 - January 27, 2009

I think I’m OCD in the opposite way.

The volume must be EXACTLY at the right level, down to the tiniest fraction of a decibel. My needlessly expensive stereo actually counts volume in fractions of a debel, on its electronic display.

The mixer-tap must stand at precisely 37 degrees to the perpendicuular for precisely the right shower temperature, and then adjusted a pinch further for one which is bracingly hot, but not scalding.

I hate it when sweetener comes in a tablet, which must be inserted whole into one’s tea, rather than in a packet, where one can pour any portion of it into the cup, adjusting the dose down to the last grain, if need be.

And Marsha. Please leave the remote controls to the men of your household. They have left them PRECISELY where they need be for optimum performance.

8. helena - January 27, 2009

radiators have heat settings?

9. Sylvia - January 28, 2009

Ah, the battle of the controls. The other people in our house seem to think that they’re living in some tropical clime and therefore the thermostat needs to be way up high. I have an old curtain that I put up every winter to stop draughts coming through the front door. My husband hates it, for some reason – I thought he would be glad of any attempt to reduce heating bills. My brother has the other half, and has the curtain up permanently. He’s a mean bugger.

10. chendaberry - January 28, 2009

Isn’t anything above 2 and a half somewhat reckless?

11. Valerie in San Diego - January 30, 2009

Occasionally I throw caution to the wind and, to turn on the heat, simply whip the lever over to the far right, so far to the right that is not labelled — something nonspecifically past 120°F — thinking that I’ll “just turn it off in ten minutes.”

The result you imagine is precisely what I deserve, of course.

12. BiB - February 3, 2009

Valerie, my Fahrenheit marbles have gone. Do you mean to heat the house or the water? I’m guessing water because 120 degrees sounds too hot to sit in. And you’re in San Diego, and isn’t it always boiling there?

Chen, don’t you even occasionally allow yourself a little 3? I might sneakily do that. And, I have to confess, on seriously freezing days before the heating’s been on anywhere in the whole flat, I might have to have the heating on full blast in the bathroom for the duration of my shower.

Sylvia, I’m with you. We should get one of those. The hall of this flat has no heating and I don’t think the front door seals its orifice all that well. We don’t have a furry snake to stop the draught so I line shoes up to plug the hole.

Helena, they do, they do. At least here. Though I can’t imagine there’s only one type of radiator in Germany. 0-5. We’re not having the snow bits of the island are at the mo so I’m on a conservative 2.

Headbang, excellent OCDery. But we must make sure that it doesn’t take over our lives. I remember my ex raving about some documentary he’d seen with sufferers who really had ceased to function because, when they left the house to go to work, they would have to go home to check the door was locked 20 times or make sure they turned the tin of soup in the larder three times to the left and then once to the right.

Marsha, we have three TV remotes. One for it. One for one receiver and another for another. I am normally happy to leave them strewn wherever they happen to be strewing themselves but if the Russian decides a tidy is necessary – unfortunately often – then they go on top of the telly. The problem is, neither it nor they are perfectly flat. I have decided putting them on at a slant creates the friction/suction they need not to fall off and disturb the nice man downstairs.

Mr D, have no fear. He has once been to Stuttgart, but it was with me, and the second he’d vacated the city, I spun around in a telephone box and put my spandex underpants on over my clothes and whizzed around the city checking every radiator for mathematical succinctness. The world saved AGAIN!

Tim, I did have to look it up, any vocabulary beyond the absolutely rudimentary and day-to-day having long since departed and, disappointingly, it was обсессивно-компульсивное расстройство, c’est-à-dire obsessivno-kompul’sivno(y)e rasstroistvo. At least the rasstroistvo word is proper Russian. An alternative, should you need to impress a Russian with your psychiatric vocab is навязчивый невроз, or navyazchivy(j) nevroz.

Annie, but would it qualify as an Asperger’s symptom or is it just OCD? It’s only appeared relatively recently, this, as far as I remember and am sure it’s actually just been an extension to worry, probably about money, which seemed to be my main occupation for about five years. Abated now, a bit, but the lovely number obsession has stuck. Hooray for bonkersness!

Varske, is that changing at all in the former SU? Yep, I too lived in one of those St. Petersburg flats where the radiators were switched on by some heating god in – when? October? November? – and were left on permanently until about May. Barking. No way of regulating. Bar, yes, the magic window. The Russian is normally very cautious about heating/electricity/settings on things. Probably for money reasons rather than thinking there’s a planet to save. But isn’t it good when the two coincide?

13. Mr D - February 3, 2009

My flatmate’s always going on about doing things – or, rather, me not doing things – in order to save energy, eg not having the fridge door open for longer than a nano-second (although she does all the same things herself, of course). At first I thought she was green, but now I know she’s just mean! (Both senses.)

And hands off the numbers 4, 7 and 16. They belong to me!

14. narrowback - February 5, 2009

I think Valerie may be referring to an american habit of “cranking” the thermostat for central heating to its maximum setting so that every obscure & rarely visited corner of the house is heated to a comfortable level

given the wide variations in american climate it is not unusual for a southern californian to find 50F dreadfully cold while a chicagoan would think it near tropic and break out the shorts and sandals

15. island1 - February 17, 2009

Hey, that was pretty funny – a rarity not to be sneezed at, though sneezing at rarities is a noble profession in itself. I’m adjusting my ‘I’ll be back” setting to a solid 4, maybe 4 and a half.

16. Mr D - February 19, 2009

Yo, Mr BiB! No reply comment or new post for almost a month? Translation keeping you that busy?

Hope all’s OK.

17. Arabella - March 3, 2009

Yeah, checking in on you BiBs. x

18. BiB - March 16, 2009

Arabella, thank you. And sorry for making you have to check in. All is well. Have just been busy, had guests, been away myself, been lazy and disinclined.

Mr D, and thank you too. I really did have an obscenely busy period. Then perhaps some vegetating. And taking time off blogging to spend more time with my family. (Just joshing.) I’ll see if I can get back up to speed.

Island1, thank you and hello. I’m glad to hear it, but do please keep an eye on the setting. It would be awful if we blew the world up with a 4 and a quarter.

Narrowback, I’ve just had my mother visiting and she was doing obscene things like opening windows. In March! I told her they could be opened in June at the earliest and ignored all her protestations for heating abstemiousness.

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