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''Probably Next Week''

photo: windows, apartment, dark sky

Paris sky lowers into window-attack position.

Paris Life - No. 23

by Laurel Avery

Paris:- Friday, 31. October 2003:- Long before moving here I had heard that it is practically impossible to get anything done related to home repair in France in a timely manner. I am having a first-hand experience that proves it.

Just after moving into my apartment in June I noticed that the two windows on the street side of the apartment werephoto: laurel s window defective, due to the fact that even when closed and locked, they were not pressed flush against the window frame and every time it rained - which is fairly often in Paris - the water would drip down the windows and leak onto the floor of the dining room.

The window in my roommate's bedroom had such a large gap at its bottom that I could use it as a hair dryer, if it was warm enough outside, on a windy day.

My sad looking windows.

I reported the miserable state of the windows to our rental agent in early June, and he informed me that he would contact our landlady about it and they would come to examine the problem shortly.

Since it was warm - hot actually, and good for hair drying - the windows were open most of the summer anyway. Being the type of person who likes to fix things before they become a big problem, in August I went in to the realtor's to inquire about it and was told that the landlady was out of town and would not return until the rentrée in September. Why he neglected to mention this problem to her in June, I don't know.

Finally, by the middle of September I was beginning to be concerned, imagining the cost of the electricity that would be making a hasty retreat through the window gaps once cold weather arrived. So I went back to the realtor, who said the landlady had agreed to have the windows repaired. However, he had to arrange with the repair guy to come and look at the windows, "Probably next week."

'Probably next week' came and went, and with October approaching I went once more into the realtor's office - thisphoto: burnt heater time, asking exactly what day they were intending to come by. Unable to think of a decent excuse, he actually made a firm appointment for later the following week.

My extra-sad looking heater. Note the fried marks.

By this time it was mid-October and getting chilly enough to put on the heat. And chilly here is nothing like chilly in most of America. It's the kind of damp chill that seeps into your bones and remains in them, probably until late spring.

Then, the night before they were to come to look at the windows, with the heat on in the living room, I was enjoying reading one evening when I heard what sounded like a mouse trying to chew through the wall behind the TV cart in the area of the heater.

The sound grew louder, so I figured it had to be one hell of a large mouse to be making that much noise. I put down my book, got up and peered behind the TV to find flames coming out of the heater! I immediately turned it off. Happily the flames subsided, leaving a scorched metal shell with a lingering odor of burnt electrical wires.

I was glad that it happened when I was at home. The thought of having gone out with the heat left on, and perhaps having the whole place burnt to the ground - with my little dogs trapped inside - made me more than a little leery of the electrical system in the whole place, especially as the circuit breaker was not tripped at all. I figured it was good that the next day the repair guy would come and take a look at it.

The next morning, 20 minutes past their scheduled arrival - considered right 'on time' for Paris - the repair guy and my realtor come up and take a look at everything. They examined both windows and then turned the heater on to see what would happen, but it looked like the fire managed to destroy the heater.

On their way out the realtor said he was going to get an estimate for the work and would call me to let me know when it would be fixed.

A week later I still had not heard anything, and now it's really cold, so I went to the office once more. By now my patience has run out completely. I'm tired of living in a cold, drafty house.

Luckily, there is a fireplace in my living room, but to use it one is supposed to have a 'ramoneur' - a chimney sweeper - come by and take a look at it, clean it if necessary, and issue a certificate stating that it is safe to use. However, one doesn't just find one of these ramoneurs standing idly on every street corner.

So even though I have wood to burn, I do not want to risk yet another fire situation - especially asphoto: radiator I'm up on the 6th floor and getting out of the apartment in the event of a fire would not be easy, without a fire escape.

Smoke detectors are apparently not required here in rental apartments, and as many of the buildings are ancient - like mine - there is usually just one small narrow stairway in which to get out. I figure if I had to, I could crawl out on the window ledge. But being rather agoraphobic, I do not relish the idea, especially with two squirming little dogs in my arms.

The hot-water radiator I wish I had.

There is a law, however, which states that it is the landlord's responsibility to provide working heat to the apartment. If this goes on I may be able to claim a refund on my rent.

So my next strategy is to go into the realtor's office and ask for the landlady's legal address so my 'avocat' - lawyer - can send a registered letter reminding her of her legal responsibility. Either that, or walk in with one of the fireplace's oak logs in my hand, and like Teddy Roosevelt said, "Speak softly and carry a big stick."

Photos and text, Laurel Avery © 2003
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