Four Months Without Gas: A Survival Guide
It was a morning like any other. Mid-March, about 9am. I’m making eggs when the portera rings to say that they are turning the gas off for a minute to do some repairs. Edesur was working on new power lines on the block during the week prior and short electricity cuts were frequent so I didn’t think much of it. I finished my breakfast and left for the day without giving it a second thought. I came home later that evening with my arms full of groceries and was met with some major side eye from my neighbor, who was returning home with a greasy McDonalds bag.
“¿No te enteraste?” – You haven’t heard?
“¿De que? – About what?
“Cortaron el gas. Estamos sin gas por dos meses ponele.” – They cut the gas. We’ll probably be without it for two months or so.
I laugh loudly and brush her off.
Yeah right. Even for here, that sounds ridiculous, I think to myself.
In the end, she was wrong. It wasn’t two months without gas, it was four…and the struggle is still very real. I’ve learned that death and the 5 stages of grief are not mutually exclusive; I’ve experienced them all and currently switch between disbelief, anger and acceptance. I also have found my inner Frank Costanza and scream “Serenity now!” enough to freak my neighbors out. Here are all of the cheesy lessons I’ve learned along the way:
Ask for help
We’re strangers in a strange land, and there is a huge community of foreigners that are happy to help a brother out. As soon as the weight of the situation hit me, I reached out on a few expat forums and was lent a George Forman and an electric burner from complete strangers. I also have a shower schedule set up with a few friends (and a fantastic deodorant collection) so I can remember what used to be a few times a week.
Be creative with what you have
I hate the phrase, it is what it is. It’s passive and overly accepting of defeat. Being a cook without an oven or stove top is a recipe for misery. I could’ve made the world’s saddest spaghetti everyday, but instead I pinterested the hell out of “one pot meal”. I’ve learned to make some killer curries, ragouts, shakshuka and soups on my little electric burner. I’ve taken the challenge as an opportunity to make the best meals I can with really limited tools, and still throw little dinner parties for friends.
Realize that it can get a lot worse
I’ve learned to complain less, because things can always get worse. And they did. Like coming home and stepping in a giant puddle of water because your water heater – the thing that literally can’t heat water – broke and flooded the house, and for the next week I either had to turn the water on every time I wanted to use the bathroom, or listen to the constant dripping of a water tank that leaks and refills and leaks and refills and leaks and refills. Thanks, Obama.
People do have it worse
The truth of the matter is, my temporary crap situation is someone else’s daily reality. I still have a place to live. I have water. I have money to feed myself. The bottles of Bulleit and Red Label I brought back from the states aren’t empty yet. All in all, I have a fairly comfortable life. Yes, I’m paying rent and should have gas, but I’m still lucky for what I do have. Every time that I start to get angry I think of everyone who lives without hot water or electricity, or being born a Duggar, or being allergic to ice cream. It doesn’t completely zen me out, but at least it humbles me and my comparatively minor inconveniences. That, and hitting someone for an hour at boxing practice once a week works wonders when thinking about kids mining for diamonds doesn’t do it for me.
Sometimes you have to scream
Throughout this entire process I have been a little too kind. I didn’t participate in the building meeting where 100 or so renters ripped the building administration a new one. I scoffed at the threatening letters taped in the building that lambasted the poor neighbor who smelled a gas leak and called the gas company – as one should logically do – rather than a repairman. It’s not the owners fault, I thought to myself, I’m not going to call and complain everyday. But my lack of pelota breaking was interpreted as an opportunity to, well, not help me at all. Deja con el nice guy, acá si no gritas no te toma en serio nadie (cut the nice guy act, here unless you scream no one is going to take you seriously), my friends told me. So reluctantly, I tracked the building manager down, putear-ed him like a taxi driver in rush hour, and threatened to stop paying my expensas for the remainder of my stay in the apartment (a year and a half) and he finally took me seriously.
I’ve been told this will all be resolved within the next two weeks – I take that with a spoonful of salt because I’ve been hearing that for the last month. All I know is that when it does come back on, I’m taking 5 hot showers a day and baking bread for the whole neighborhood.