Sunday, May 31, 2015

Birds in a Bird Bath

The alarm was set for 06h00.  I was to rise early to catch a 08h00 TGV au Mans.  I was off to watch the Big Motorcycles run at the MotoGP Grand Prix de France.

MotoGP ~ Grand Prix de France ~ le Mans ~ 2015

06h00 - I'm out of bed and into the shower.  The water is freezing cold.

06h30 - Now I'm freezing cold after a terrible attempt at showering.  I check the fuse.  It looks good.  I check the fuse box.  Hmmm.  Somethings tripped.  Reset the switch and "BANG", we're dark.  The chauffe-eau has died.

06h45 - Email our proprietaires to let them know there's a problem.

07h15 - Breakfast finished.  Wishing Jude "good luck" (after verifying that, yes, there was nothing to be done by me sticking around).  Out the door to catch the metro to the TGV railhead.

Thus begins a rather long story of what it takes to get something fixed in this country.

One of my brothers explained it this way.  In some countries you have 1st world, 2nd world, and 3rd world experiences all in the same place and at the same time.  I am rather unhappy to put France on the list of such countries.

Le moins de Mai has not three (like I originally thought) but FOUR Four Day Weekends.  When did our chauffe-eau die?  Dans le moins de mai!  Zut alors!!

All work slows to a crawl.  No one is around to do anything.  You can't get sick.  The doctors are all out of town.  You can't meet friends.  They're all out of town.  You can't have a Critical Component of Modern Daily Living die on you and expect it will be attended to in a quick manner.  Technicians who manage Critical Components of Modern Daily Living are all out of town.

My father pointed out that if the chauffe-eau died in the US, the job would've been done the next day.  Or if the part wasn't available, certainly the day after.

Here?  Well.  First you have to schedule a man to come take a look and gather the information on what is to be replaced.

Then you need to wait while the contract is written up.

Followed by a review of the contract and verification what all is correct (and not too expensive).

After which the signed contract is returned and the Date of Installation is, well, discussed.

To their credit, our proprietaires did an amazing job.  They were responsive and concerned.  They worked their French Magic as best they could.  They pushed l'entreprise who was doing the work as hard as they could be pushed.  Would couldn't wish for finer landlords.

While things were Thrashed Out, Jude and I heated water on the stove and hauled it into the shower.  We'd then help eachother bathe.  A splash here.  A dunk there.  A little scrubbing where needed.

We were like two little birds splashing about in a bird bath.

In the end, it took four hours to remove the dead chauffe-eau and to install the replacement.  Pipes needed to be removed.  The building water needed to be turned off (for a short time).  New copper plumbing needed to be installed.

At one point we heard a lot of Heavy Work taking place.  So I went to inspect and found two plombieres sweating and breathing hard.  They'd just lowered the old chauffe-eau.  It was exceedingly heavy.  So I went out to inspect the replacement and found it rather light.  I could easily move it around.

After a conversation with le chef plombiere I learned something rather interesting.  What I learned was related to something Jude and I saw when we heated the water on the stove.  If we brought the water to near boiling a surface of "scum" appeared.  When we first saw it I suggested that it was calcium coming out of suspension.  Without fully realizing the implications of this we tried to bring our water to something less than a boil.

Le chef plombier asked what the temperature was set to in the old chauffe-eau.  "Plus de soixante degree" I replied.  "C'est ca, alors."  Our old chauffe-eau's thermostat was set so high that it was bringing calcium out of suspension and depositing it in the ballon of the old system.

I knew, but, again, didn't full appreciate the long term impacts, that Paris' water runs over and through ancient limestone deposits.  You can get a sense of this by descending into the Catacombs.  All you see are limestone walls, steps, paths, ceilings.  That is where the calcium is coming from.  The old rock-bed that Paris sits on is limestone.

Le chef plombier and I talked about what the new chauffe-eau should be set to.  We agreed that 50degrees centigrade was about right.  This temperature would be warm enough to be comfortable and cool enough to avoid calcium build-up.

After a few hours of heating Jude took her first hot shower in eleven days.  I took mine a few hours later.

It was good to rejoin Modern Civilization.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Leaving Tours behind...

After the rather trying 5 days Jude spent in the hospital in Tours, it was time to take a leisurely dinner, spend one last night in the hotel, and catch a late morning TGV back to Paris.

Touring Tours

Jude was pretty tired from the Big Thrash.  We reviewed a few of the Big Thrash Details together and here's what we came up with.

Unlike in the States, when Jude was given her room in the hospital no one showed her how the facility worked, what the buttons meant, nor how to turn on the lights.  The French must be born with this kind of information encoded in their DNA.  After 5 days, Jude had figured nearly everything out.

Showering was an interesting exercise in anonymity.  In the States a hospital wrist tag is impervious to nearly every known chemical, element, and natural disaster.  It's function is to help everyone sort out who's who in the zoo.  In France?  Well, when you shower you become anonymous.  Water makes it's way down the wrist tag and wipes the Vital Information carrying paper clean.  Pretty neat trick, eh?

Touring Tours

Entertainment in hospital rooms in the US may be limited to a few channels of cr*p, but at least the eyes have something to keep them entertained during sleepless nights.  In France?  Interested Parties need to find their way out of the bed (or rely on a reasonable proxy in the form of a family member who is perhaps more mobile) to head downstairs to visit the young lady who sits behind a wide counter.  Her sole purpose is to sell you access to such things as TV and, um, More TV.  They used to offer WiFi connections for pay, too.  Times change.  An End has been put to that Nonsense.  At times it felt like we'd slipped out of Modern Day France into the depths of Medieval France.  Jude was effectively cut off from the world during her hospital stay.

Ah.  Here's a nice feature.  The water cooler that sat outside the door to Jude's room acted as one of those Bed Vibrators that used to be found in cheap hotels all across that Great Land of America.  We weren't able to work out, however, if this was an intentional benefit.  If The Authorities knew about it, perhaps they'd want to charge for the service.

Touring Tours

As for myself, I'd been taking a somewhat expensive taxi between the hotel and hospital.  On Sunday night I called the taxi service and waited and waited and no one showed up.  So I called the service back to see where my ride was and was told they tried to call me and no one answered.  Huh.  I'd not been called before, so why on Sunday night?  At the start of the Spring Break?  During Dinner Hour?  Fortunately I spied a bus, sorted out what needed to be paid, took a seat, and was able to take the Cheap Way home in less time than I could've ever imagined.

After going through the Big Thrash and as Jude was preparing to (finally!) leave the hospital one of the nurses shared with her how they refer to a nurse (which Jude was) who's in a hospital bed.  The French say that "she's crossed over to the Dark Side."

Touring Tours