As I sit writing this blog at my desk in Florence, I am wearing a long sleeve shirt, a sweatshirt, long pants, the warmest pair of socks I own, my ugly-ass slippers (for an in-depth description of the aforementioned slippers, please see my first post) and, to accompany the many layers of clothing, my body is covered in a red fleece blanket. I am also contemplating putting on gloves, but that would seriously inhibit my typing ability.
Essentially, I am freezing.
In terms of outside temperatures, especially after this week’s “snowpocalypse,” you guys in Evanston definitely have me beat: A typical Florentine day in January/February has ‘highs’ in the upper 40s and ‘lows’ in the mid-30s.
But for whatever reason — high cost of energy, cultural norms, whatever — the Italians do not keep the inside of their homes very warm. I swear it is 55 degrees Fahrenheit in here. And as much as I would like to ask my host parents — who are really wonderful in every other way — to please for the love of God turn up the heat, they seem to be quite comfortable. So my roommate and I suffer in silence.
But last Monday at around 6 p.m., as my fingers and toes began to go numb, I decided it was time for action.
No one else was home — it was the perfect opportunity for me to snoop around my house looking for a knob, a switch, anything, really, that remotely resembled something that maybe was once a thermostat. Anything to avoid fiddling with the horribly complex-looking heater in my room. But as is often the case in Italy, there is no straightforward and simple way to do anything — even increase the indoor temperature by a few degrees. And there is certainly not a 21st century thermostat in my 19th century building.
Without any other options, I cautiously approached the heater.
I reached my hand out.
The heater felt warm to the touch.
So far so good.
Then I spotted three very distinct looking knobs on different parts of the heater. I closely scrutinized each one, scanning the worn white plastic for numbers, letters or anything that indicated an ability to change the temperature. No such luck.
“Screw it,” I thought as my teeth began to chatter.
I reached for a knob and hastily jerked it to the left.
Immediately, a stream of water started spurting from the knob onto the floor, the wall, the window and, of course, my entire body.
My sweatshirt, my sweatpants and even my ugly-ass slippers were splattered with water.
I closed the knob, cleaned up the mess, changed my clothes and retreated to the safety of a relatively warm comforter.