22 May 2007

An Unintentional Torture (or how to get your plumbing fixed in Russia)

After returning back from a virtually perfect holiday, the second thing that welcomed me to Moscow was a notice on my door. (The first thing is always the passport queues..if they had a mechanism to collect excess adrenaline on the Russian passport queue, then they would build up the world's biggest hormone depot on Sheremetyevo Airport..anyway)

It took seconds for me to realise that my door was almost broken and then welded back to the frame. I tried to focus on the note that is scribbled in russian and full of different official stamps. All my attempts to get in to my flat was vain because of a non existent door handle and a welded keyhole. I had to change sim cards to reach my landlord, who was enjoying a peaceful getaway from Moscow in Turkey (here is a concrete irony: A Russian living in Turkey rents a flat to a Turkish living in Russia) and realised the tragedy that happened while I was cruising in the Balkans: My flat's soviet plumbing couldn't handle the years of the pressure from the capitalist H20 and leaked through the walls to the neighbors. Being not able to reach both me and my landlord (It is also a perfect mystery that they found my cell phone number..God Bless the Secret Service!), they called in the local santehnik (plumber) and police to break in and stop the flooding. Then they sealed the door back to stop potential in-house looters (I told you before that you never know who the neighbors may be)

I waited 2 days in His Majesty Cagri Gogus' house for my landlord to come and then watched two Ukrainian guys he hired to break through the welded door. (If they had welded the Iron Curtain that strong, then we would still enjoy the Red Flag above Kremlin). It took 4 hours to break down the door for the two guys, who rather look like hippies from Woodstock 69. One of the guys with straight hair down to his belly said "They used to build things stronger then.." while puffing from his cigarette he made from tobacco, mortar and old newspapers.

Welcome to the wonderful world of Communal Plumbing!

To my surprise I found the flat rather clean (I had imagined that a platoon from the Red Army paratrooper division would storm my apartment) but the bathroom in a mess. They knocked down all the walls to stop the leak...they would simply break a small portion around the spot where the leak is originated, it doesn't take to be an engineer for this...just plain logic.

Here is a fact: The water system is communal in Russia and like all communal systems, it needs its own strict maintenance system. Any intrusion to communal systems will give you a heap of angry neighbors and maybe even more...In any case of damage or repair, a guy needs to be called from oblivion to do the job. He is called "Santehnik" and now I can say that I have met a real Russian person after I had to spend a total of 3 days with a guy called Vasily (or Vasya as he wanted to be called by women and his friends)

He came hours after my landlord called to inform me about his coming. Like all corporate slaves, I have to get a permission to stay at home during the workdays and I can't say that I was in my best mood when he arrived hours later from the appointed time with rusty tools dangling from his jumpsuit. He looked more like the guys that collect metal cans on the street: A thin man with a blonde hair so dirty that the colour of his hair would define a new shade of yellow. He chainsmoked to the butt of his cigarette that he sometimes charred the tips of his moustache and laugh about it gradually. (He said that the some reminds him about the snake barbeques they made in the army.)

After waiting for him for hours, all he needed to do was to check the bathroom with a 2-second glance and tell that everything would be all right (He started calling me Brother because I resembled his step-brother from his Turkmen step-father). He told me that he would be back tomorrow morning with the necessary equipment and fix everything. So I had to get another half-day homestay to wait for him that day.

The other day, he called me at 6 am to open the door for him (Actually I was still using the blasted door and he needed me to push the rubble out to let him in). With bloody eyes reminiscent of a long party the other day, he started to fix the pipes while he was telling stories about Russian women, his 4 marriages, his military life as an assault commando...etc. He boasted that he quit alcohol but I could smell pure grain vodka from the other corner of my flat when he was speaking. I even advised him not to smoke, not that I cared about his health, but that he already filled the bathroom with enough alcohol vapor to blast us off with a spark.

He left the flat 2 hours later to have breakfast and returned back in a short while to "share" his breakfast with me. Since refusing his offer would strategically alter the repair process, I agreed and even offered some juice to accompany what he brought us to eat. (I decided to let the juice in the fridge when he opened up his breakfast package, which rather looked like a dirty sack of potatoes.) My observations was confirmed when he opened the sack to bewilder me to my gastronomical limits: Potatoes, Lard, Sausages, Bread, Milk and Beer. No need to say that he didn't care to wash the black filth on his hands when he spared some bread for me and said while chewing pork sausage "My brother Dinc, Men must eat...Men eat and drink...vegetarians are homosexuals and I don't like them...vegetables are for cows...don't be a cow and EAT!". All those years of my cardiologically concious living has gone vain when I ate those sausages which tasted like meat in a way that I haven't tasted before...

He spent an hour fixing the pipes, drank 3 beers and then went out the bathroom occasionally to comment on my old soviet films dvd collection, of which I was watching some films. He surprisingly told me that he had watched them all and made some genuine comments about the female artists' body parts.

I was already warned about keeping the santehniks well fed with alcoholic bevarages so I gave him regular treats of beer (He already told that Beer would not count to his fasting for alcohol...Cola was for homosexuals and beer for real men). After 2 more beers for him and another film for me, he stepped out, totally exhausted and sweaty, said "My Brother Dinc, I have made a mistake..I have to crash down some walls and o it again" I already changed to a face of surprise and anger when he burst into laughter and added "I JOKED!...All is fixed and I am leaving"...He also added to my surprise that he would be available 24 hours if any additional leak occured because he lived on the next block. (See my writings about my neighbors...I may be paying his yearly income for a month's rent...and we are living in the same building)

That day I was just about to enjoy a good night's sleep when a neighbor, Alex Petrovich (the war veteran who spent all World War 2 in German armament factories as a slave worker) smashed through my door (actually a self-made barricade from pierced metal and debris) crying out to stop flooding his floor 2 floors downstairs. I told him that it was all fixed but he need not give an answer because he was already wet. We called back Vasya and he showed up half an hour later in a black leather trousers and red shirts. He was in a "good mood" and assured to Alex Petrovich to sleep well because he would fix it immediately...no need to say that I had to drag him out of the bathroom because he dosed off to sleep there in a short while..

So Alex Petrovich's house was already wet when Vasya appeared again in his clumsy jump suit and bright moods. He told me "Men must be strong...Women don't like weaklings" while his tatooes on his arms changed shape when he was fixing the pipes...After a while, an audience of angry neighbors were already flooding to my flat that their houses were also scarred by watermarks. Vasya was already out to declare his triumphant repair and calmed the angry mob out of my flat and whispered to a young girl neighbor (which I haven't noticed before) that I was a good-looking bastard. He took the remaining beers from the fridge and gave a big Red Army salute for farewell. (I didn't resist for his claim of the beer, since they were off the lowest quality...that one would rather use for bathroom hygiene)

Making his way through the debris in the corridor, he dropped two bottles and littered the corridor, shouting back at me "My Brother Dinc, get somebody to clear the corridor..pigs are not living in here!"

So it took me 12 bottles of beer, a heart-healthy breakfast and many new russian vocabulary (actually, slang) to get my plumbing fixed...

Note: Vasya didn't allow me to take his photo and added that he would end my life as I know it as a man, if i took it secretly...He was almost sure that it would be a great source for internet spam mailings.

It is not an actual photo of Vasya but is definitely similar


isil said...

Gecmis olsun Dinccim ya, neler gelmis basina, cok uzuldum. Isler yoluna girmistir insallah. Bu arada fotoroman super! Okurken cok eglendim :)

Dinc Arslan said...

Begendiyseniz ne mutlu...Eniste icin bir guzellik yapmak istedim sadece :)

Bu arada hersey yoluna girdi, tesekkurler

John said...

One of the funniest stories I've read in a long time (: