Steam Heat!

Today, it is October 15, just another day.  Once upon a time, though, it was one of the happiest days of the year.  So maybe you are wondering, what could make the Ides of October so special?  Well, this was the day that landlords in New York were required to turn on the heat.

Back there and then, we would be living in one brownstone or another, each of which had been converted from a single family home into three separate apartments with one residence per floor.

Now, these were old buildings.  The one by Washington Park had 1862 chiseled into the cornerstone.  We are talking Civil War era construction.  We are talking a century before my birth.

Anyway, due to the archaic wiring and such, there would be only one thermostat for the entire building, meaning we had no way to control our climate.  And because utilities were included in the rent, the landlords were invariably stingy with the steam.  Until October 15th.

Unfortunately, there was no minimum temperature stipulation, so we would still be numb with cold, but at least it would be more like living in a refrigerator than a freezer.

And so on this day, I would sit within kissing distance of the radiator, wrapped thickly like the Michelin Man while exhaling condensation like the Marlboro Man.

Then finally — finally! — the long wait would be over.  The radiator would start to hiss and clang.  The pipes would start to rumble.  The air would start to smell a little bit boiled.

When at last I could feel a slight warmth on my face, I would dare to remove my scarf — but not my mittens — and belt out my most rambunctious rendition of “I Got the sssssss Steam Heat!”  Oh yeah.

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

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