Archive for the 'rants' Category


Metro de Madrid has closed any number of bocas de metro, including one that’s very convenient to my house, with no notice of reopening. While I’m no longer a daily metro user, I depend on it on days I don’t use my bike. This measure comes on the heels of several ticket-price hikes and apparently is another cost-saving measure that serves to make life just a little bit worse for everyday people. You can complain here.

Technical difficulties

I know you readers are used to lengthy hiatuses on this blog, but I’ve actually been wanting to post for the past week and have been unable to. There seems to be a problem with my home internet connection (provided by Jazztel) and WordPress; no computer from my house can load pages apart from the WordPress homepage itself. The customer service guy at Jazztel told me I’m not the first to complain and they’ve been working on the problem for several days now.

Signing off from a computer at work and hoping to be back soon…

UPDATE: Nice job, Jazztel. I’m back in action.

Watch your language

This morning, on the way back from my run, I waited at a light next to some men training guide dogs for the blind. One of the dogs was looking at me eagerly and wagging her tail as if she wanted me to pet her, so I made a comment to her [Spanish] trainer that she probably wasn’t very far along in her training. He responded by parroting a heavily American-accented Spanish. I didn’t hear his answer because I was already sprinting away, incredibly offended.

It’s not often that someone makes fun of my accent. Usually I get comments like, “Your Spanish is great, how long have you been here?” But when someone does mock it, especially a stranger, it makes me angry. I don’t know if I am just more culturally sensitive after living in the U.S. and teaching English here, but how can it be okay to laugh at someone trying to speak a second language?

The joys of convivencia

This has to be one of the great pleasures of living with other people: seeing your roommate’s stuffed animal collection freshly washed on the clothes dryers in the front hall.

The bane of my existence

One of the most frustrating things I\'ve encounteredYes, we’re talking about that white box you see on your left. I first encountered it in Chile, when I was studying abroad and living with a slightly eccentric Chilean family. If I didn’t remind them to turn on the calefont, I would have an ice cold shower. Or sometimes I would be surprised out of a mid-shower reverie by a blast of frigid water due to someone turning the apparatus off. [Yes, yes, I know millions of people all over the world survive without hot running water. But I had come from the U.S., where the water in my shower always ran hot if you waited long enough.]

So I wasn’t exactly surprised to find a calefont in my new home in Madrid. I was quickly corrected by my Spanish roommates that it was not a calefont but rather a calentador (heater). OK, whatever. The White Box That Heats Water made it known in a few short days that it was a royal pain in the culo, that the gas would turn off when it wanted to, and then it was all but impossible to turn it back on again. We finally devised a system whereby we’d take turns holding the pilot until enough gas was in the chamber (generally upwards of five minutes of pushing your thumb into a button) and the flame would stay lit.

But the problem persisted, the Box turned off and lighting the damn thing didn’t get any easier. We finally called servicio técnico, who sent a repair guy who proclaimed the Box very dirty and said we should do a better job of maintenance. Said repair guy (reported my German roommate Inga) was muy muy guapo. This was December 2005.

Fast forward to April 2008. In the more than two year interim, the guapo repair guy had returned at least once, the Box continued to turn itself off when it pleased, but the re-lighting process had become considerably shorter and easier. But in April of this year of economic crises, strange weather, and an incredibly drawn out primary season, the Box turned itself off, and none of the six residents in my flat could turn it on. We called servicio técnico, they would send someone that day (urgente) for 120 euros, or sometime in the next one to three days for 60.

I had already begun bathing myself in the old-fashioned style, that is heating water and pouring it over my head. (I had done this once before in early 2006 when I returned from Christmas holidays, the Box was turned off, and I, alone in the house, had no idea how to turn it on again, and desperately needed a pre-party shower.) It’s a slow system, but it works. Lucky for us, the guapo returned the following day (I again missed his lovely visage due to occupational obligations), fixed something, said the Box had been leaking, and we had a glorious 24 hours of hot showers before it turned off again Saturday afternoon and refused to turn on again.

And then water started to drip from the Box. A lot. We filled Tupperwares every few hours. So this week the guapo returned, inspected the Box in a rare moment it was not leaking at all, promptly lit the thing, and probably walked off muttering about what a bunch of nincompoops we were. My roommate who attended him was surely too embarrassed to insist that, no, it really had been leaking.

Well, I’ve got news for you, Sr. Guapo who I’ve never seen: the Box is still dripping several days later after you marched in and said it was fine. It started promptly after you left and hasn’t stopped. We still have our precious hot water, but I fear that at any moment it could turn itself off and be very ornery when we attempt to turn it on again.

And this is one thing that makes me miss home.

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