As a California girl, I think we used the heater in my childhood home about five times during the course of the winter months. I remember the musty smell that would radiate from the hallway when we would turn it on for the first time each year. Eventually my mom would start to feel claustrophobic and we would have to turn it off and put on our turtlenecks and socks. Hence, my experience with heaters is needless to say, quite small.
When I moved to Santa Barbara for college the heater had a bigger place in my life because it was colder on the coast. Unfortunately, the dorm heaters were anything but efficient and even my first apartment on El Greco road only had one heater downstairs that was supposed to heat the entire 1960's duplex. I think we were lucky we didn't burn the place down.
After Santa Barbara I moved to the other side of the Atlantic and found myself in Toulouse. It was in Toulouse that I experienced my very first real winter and my very first heating bill that was over 200 euros. My roommates N and C and I lived in an ancient building on Boulevard Lascrosses owned by a coniving French woman who lived in an apartment overlooking Hyde Park in ritzy London. Just to give you an example of the s**thole in which we lived, we found the previous tenants dentures in the cupboard, the sink fell off the wall and there was a pipe explosion leaving us toilet-less for three days. And that is just the beginning. But I digress...
The problem on Boulevard Lascrosses was that we had radiators - radiators so old that the dials controlling the heat were locked in position from years of deterioration resulting in the only temperature choice of SUPER HOT. We California raised kids didn't understand the concept of regulating heat on a day to day (or hour by hour) basis and therefore just kept the heat on 24/7 until said electric bill arrived in the mail and we realized that we were in hot s**t.
My next apartment in Toulouse was newer and outfitted with electric heating. When the French asked about my apartment heating and learned it was electric they made a face which I quickly understood to mean that electric heating was trés cher. Greeeeat. As a result, (and also due to my experience the previous winter) I only turned the heat on when I absolutely needed it and spent most of the winter in multiple layers at all times. Or, I turned on one heater and tried to remain in close proximity to it for most of the evening. I made it work for my measly teaching assistant salary while managing not to lose any extremities from frost bite. My heater was on, but in "moderation" as we Americans like to say. I ate just one square of chocolate, not the whole bar. Winter 2005: No 200 euro bills - all ten fingers and toes AHA!
Now I find myself in Cannes, known admittedly more for the cold people than for the cold weather. I also now happen to live with a Copain who I have had to teach the English words cheapskate and tightwad to due to the subject of our one main fight this winter: we have very different feelings about the use of our heater. After spending all of 2007 and 2008 without turning on the heater so much as once - and after having to provide (embarrassing) blankets to my friends when they came over for our weekend Star Academy nights, I told the Copain that this year I would be turning on the heat! (It became especially clear when both of my friends came over this December equipped with extra sweaters for the dinner I had invited them to.) We both earn normal salaries, we are grown ups, we don't even have a dryer so god damnit we get to have heat! And I meant it.
When I got home from spending the holidays in California, in comparison Cannes was CA-OLD. cooooooooold. I kept my jacket on in the house until it was time for a shower at which point I turned the space heater on in the bathroom to warm it up before I had to brave the cold sans jacket/clothes/underthings. I then hopped in the shower to the amazingness of steamy hot water - ahhhh happiness. But my euphoria came to a screeching halt when I opened the shower door to dry off and found that not only had the bathroom door been opened letting out all of the warm shower steam, but more importantly, the heater had been turned OFF! I was LIVID. The Copain was in deep dog doo. He had crossed the line and was going to pay! And I knew exactly what would get his attention.
Me: You turned off the bathroom heater that I turned on specifically for my shower!
Copain: But you didn't need it.
Me: AND you opened the door!
Copain: ok, yes, I opened the bathroom door, but here is your towel - it's not that cold.
Me: WHAT!? my towel?! not that cold??!! This is beyond inconsiderate! I turned on the heat because I wanted to be warm - and I closed the door to keep the warm in and you effed them both up! A towel is not making this situation any better.
Me: You know what (dramatic pause) I'm turning on the heat!
Copain: (panic rising) Noooooo! Don't turn on the heat! We don't need it! I don't earn enough money to put on the heat!
Me: I'm doing it - the heat is going on right now! I warned you that I wanted to use it this year and your inconsiderate actions show me that it must go on now! Here I go!
Copain: (pleading look in his eyes) Nooo please! No heat! No no no! (switches to French due to panic) Non, ce n'est pas possible! On n'a pas besoin du chauffage!!!!
Me: **flip** (heat turns on - FCC wins the heat war)
To fully understand the pain and trauma that the Copain went through by me turning on the heat, just remember that this is the man who wants me to charge me cell phone during the "non-peak" electrical hours to cut down on cost.
We have now had heat for three days though the Copain insists on closing the bathroom and kitchen doors to "keep the heat in the rooms where we need it." oh good god.