If you live outside major cities, as I have for most of my life, and you have a heating system in your home, it is likely that you have either electric or gas heat. I lived in and around Greensboro from birth to age four, outside of Atlanta, Ga from age four to fifteen, in Gaithersburg, Md for six months, then back in Greensboro until about two years ago, and in none of these different homes did I have to deal with steam heat. All of the buildings were fairly new. They all had modern appliances (Central Air, electric ranges, and the like), and if we wanted heat we turned the dial on the wall up causing warm air to come out the vents in the floors, walls, and ceilings. We had heard of a radiator. We had even seen them on TV. "Mad About You" had a charming episode in which both the radiator and AC were malfunctioning leaving Paul and Jamie to go from one room which was incredibly hot and humid to another which was quite chilly. Layers of clothing were donned when they went into the bedroom and shed in the living room. On and off. On and Off. It was all very slap-stick. And all very funny.
What I don't remember seeing on any television show--but will be looking out for in the future--is an incessant banging of pipes whenever the steam, or hot water, or whatever, is on. We are no longer new to New York. We've witnessed the phenomenon before, and we've come to expect a little clanging during the cooler months. It ads character, even imposes a personality onto the building itself. Maybe not a cheery personality, but at least that of a lovingly crotchety old man living downstairs. One thinks of Mr. Roper or--to a slightly lesser extent--Mr. Furley. And, of course, Oscar the Groutch. Whatever television personality you want to invoke, the point is clear. While the racket might be annoying, you love the building in spite of, or even because of the commotion it causes. Last night I realized how utter bullshit all that nonsense is.
We have two radiators in this apartment. One in the living room. One in the bedroom. There's also a pipe that runs through all of the bathrooms in the building. It gets hot to the touch and is intended to keep the bathroom warm. Because we are on the top floor, the pipe doesn't go from floor to ceiling as it does in the rest of the building. Instead it sprouts up from the floor and rises about eight feet and stops. At the top, there is a valve which vents the steam which heats the pipe and everybody's bathroom.
The venting makes a lot of noise, but it isn't constant and isn't in the bedroom. If worse comes to worse you can always close the door on the noise in the bathroom. The real problem last night was with the clanging I mentioned before. The word relentless comes to mind. Usually the ruckus lasts a few minutes. Nothing more. You might wake-up, but it will be over soon and you'll be back to sleep in no time. Last night it began a little after eleven and continued until about seven in the morning when we finally got out of bed.
It's 9:15p. The Debate is on and I am tired.