Neighborhood #3

Here's what happened: I had finally gotten hot water put into my shower, unaware that it was a mistake that the water was not very hot and not by design. So the super came up and fixed the shower around 7. Super.

Around 9:30 I get into the shower, giddy at the very touch of heat coming from the showerhead. So I get in the shower, plunge my hair under, pick up the soap...and then all of the lights go out and the water becomes freezing.

I jump out of the shower, dry off, and put on some shorts and a T, and step into the hallway to see if everyone else is confused as I am. I wait for about three minutes, and not one of the over 2,000 tenants is emerging from a room. I tiptoe over next door and kneel down to see if any light is escaping from my neighbor's room. It is. And all of the lights in the hallway are on as well.

So I go downstairs and (here's where things get propitious) I think about how I can possibly tell the super (who does not speak any English at all) about the predicament. But, unbelievably, luckily, not three hours ago at my Thai lesson I had learned the word for "electricity" or "power." So I was able to tell him that I did not have electricity.

He came up and flicked a switch on the power breaker inside my room, and all of the lights came on. He looked at me funny, I thanked him, and then left.

Huh! It was only the flick of a switch! Maybe a switch he forgot to turn back on when he was fixing the hot water, perhaps.

I get back in the shower, dunk my hair under, reach again for the bar of soap, and again--as though removing the soap from the soapdish is the cause--the power goes out and the water goes cold. I jump out of the shower again and plod over to the breaker (dry, mind you) and check the switch. It's off again. I turn it on. The lights come on. I turn on the shower. The water is hot. I get in the shower. I dunk my hair under. I reach for the soap.

Darkness. Coldness.

Now I have to tell the super that I lose power whenever I turn on the hot water. Propitiously (word of the day) I had just learned how to form this complex sentence, the vocabulary word that enables you to say what happens while something else is happening. So, with wet hair, and with my notebook in hand just in case I screwed up, I went down and told the bemused super what was wrong.

And everything worked out. He brought up his ladder, and his tool bag, and he hammered something and wrenched something and flicked some switches and everything was back to normal. I thanked him a lot and he smiled and then he left.

And then I took my first truly hot shower in weeks.

I can say with some certainty that I will not forget the word for "electricity" now. It's like that vocabulary learning trick where, when you use a new word, you are supposed to use it five times that day in order to make it stick. Well, I passed that quota and then some, muttering it to myself over and over again down the stairs as I tried to get the pronunciation right ("Fai fai fai fai fai fai fai")

Also one of my cutest most favorite students is named Fai and now I can only picture her with blue static lightning emanating from around her head, like Halle Berry in X-Men.


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