Steam!!!

Oct. 23rd, 2011 08:31 pm
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My apartment building has finally turned on the heat!

Every year, I get so excited by this. It's like an event. I love that first little hiss, soon to be followed by the clanking and crackling and that warm iron smell of old steam radiators that have been shut down for months.

When I was a kid, we always called it "steam." We went through a long stretch in my childhood when our apartment building was hopelessly run down and mismanaged, and we were lucky to get even a few hours of steam every evening. So of course, whenever we heard it starting to bubble up, my sister and I would have to announce "Steam's coming!" God, that makes it sound like I grew up in the nineteenth century -- I swear, sometimes I feel like I did.

That's something I know I'm going to miss at this new job. My former job was in such an old building that some offices (including mine) still had radiators that actually worked, even though we also had more modern hot air ducts. If I went into the office on a Saturday, the building's heat was off but the steam was still on and it was...cozy, believe it or not.

The apartment I had in Maine was the only place I ever lived where I could turn on my own heat just by twisting a thermostat. It was, of course, much more convenient and comfortable than waiting for the super to "send up some steam" but it was also...a lot less thrilling. The annual first steam of the year always marks the real beginning of autumn for me. I also had baseboard heaters in that apartment -- reliable, quiet, odorless and so, so boring. I think if I ever built a house, I would insist that it have big old steam-heat radiators, assuming there's anyone out there who still makes them. There are just little things that make life better in their own strange way.

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