Monday, February 1, 2010

An Insanely Atypical Thing

In most of my Istanbul houses, there's been central heating. I hate central heating. The reason I hate it is because in the winter, you're stuck with whatever indoor temperatures your neighbors think are good. I think anyone who lives in Turkey might see where I'm going with this.

Most Turks are like my grandma. They seem to think it's nice to keep the house at a sweltering 80 degrees or so all year around. Most people don't have A/C in their homes, so in summer this can't be helped (though not enough people believe it won't kill you to open a window or two), but in winter, the solution is to blast the hell out of the central heat. In winter, I'm at home barefoot in T-shirts with most of the windows cracked and all the radiators closed, sweating in the heat generated just by the radiator pipes. The other reason I hate central heating is that no matter how I feel about the temperature, no matter how much heat I let out the open windows, we still have to pay for it.

I'm very much of the "Put on a sweater if you're cold" school of thought. Like most good liberals of my generation, I have the bizarre, almost religious behaviors associated with going green. I've quit using fabric softener, paper towels (unless it's really gross), and paper napkins. I save jars and breadcrumbs and magazines and Ziploc bags and bits of string and buttons. I clean the floors with vinegar when the cleaner's not around. I water my plants from the aquarium. I only conceded failure on my kitchen scraps composting project when my balcony plants sprouted tomatoes and potatoes from seeds that managed to live. I'm totally the household "Turn off the lights and don't leave the water running and LE, goddammit quit flushing the toilet money doesn't grow on trees and when you grow up we'll be at war for the water shortages" natural resources Nazi. So the idea of how much oil is being wasted on my behalf causes me to lose sleep at night.

A lot of other things cause me to lose sleep at night too. That's just one of them.

So the other night when the kapıcı came around with a petition about maybe turning the heat down, I stood there agape for so long he asked BE, "Is she okay?" Then I got all excited and started jumping around with LE, who was jumping around because every time the doorbell rings he thinks it's either the water guy or the French fry guy and he gets to give them the money. The petition had to go to all the neighbors, and it had a few choices, like "I'm happy with the heat the way it is," "It's much too hot," "It's much too cold," and "Turn the boiler off at night and start it again in the morning."

Amazing. I don't know if the motivation behind the petition was cost, the environment, or the temperature, but it was truly one of the last things I ever expected to see in Turkey.

And even though BE hates to put on a sweater and he runs water the whole time he's brushing his teeth and he's forever bitching at me about the open windows and my bare feet, he knows what's good for him and checked "It's much too hot."

Oh, the anticipation! It wasn't just our building surveyed, it was all the ones in our block-- 62 flats altogether.

But then, yesterday the results were posted. 62% in favor of tropical indoor temperatures and the other 58% in favor of other stuff.

Still, it's a start. Maybe next year heating will get expensive enough that everyone will learn just to put on a freaking sweater. The environment is one thing, a 200 YTL monthly heating bill is another.

Sigh. Time to crack some windows.


seamus said...

Democracy in action. So untypical.


Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

Hah. You are too community-minded. You should instead move to a place with a kombi, keep it at or around 68F during the day (and far lower at night) and pay a third of what your heat-loving neighbors pay. Actually I've come close to a tenth by also adjusting my cooking and other acts of cheapness.

Stranger said...

I get the feeling coops like ours are one of the few places in the world there is actual democracy in action. That's why I never go to building meetings-- too much time and too much talking and too many axes to grind and very little gets accomplished. Like a true democracy, the compromise is such that no one is happy. In this most recent case, the majority is slightly happier than the minority, and the minority is pretty big (heh-- I just looked at my percentages which I copied from the sign on the front door, and apparently I'm not the only one with arithmetic issues).

I would love to have a combi. In the one house I lived with a combi, it was on for about 6 weeks for the whole year (maybe we were getting heat from the other flats?) and our gas bill went up about 30 million. I mean YTL. I mean TL. It was a long time ago.

Nomad said...

Last year I lived in an apartment without heat and the place was on the ground floor. (Actually it was a duplex so half of it was.) It was always tremendously cold there and I could never get warm. Izmir isn't really very cold except for about three weeks. During that my cats would never stray far from me in order to milk up the last bit of warmth from my body. Seeing your breath as you try to watch TV is what I would consider modern day roughing it. So I may be coming to this issue from a different angle.

Now I have the same arrangement as you and up until recently, it was the same problem. Words that come to mind are stifling, sweltering. I would have to go out to the balcony- not to smoke, but to breathe. If you ever came in from a walk or shopping, you felt like you could smother to death before you got your coat off.
Then the building manager switched over to gas, and the furnace comes on in the morning and in the evening for a few hours and the bills went down quite unexpectedly. Huraah!

Vicky, Bursa said...

We have a combi and it amuses me to take a peek at the other people's gas bills as ours is usually a third of theirs. At my MIL's, she has the same system as you and it's horrendous. She loves being toasty warm but I feel I can't breathe and send Deniz round there in T-shirts which she thinks is insane and asks me why he's not wearing tights under his trousers.

love the percentages thing - maybe the minority were more forceful with their pens so gained an extra few percentage points. Either that or you have actually won (hurray!) so should get down to your next residents' meeting quick sharp to get the decision overturned.

My husband loves our cooperative - at the first meeting he went to, at 11am on a Sunday someone opened a few crates of Efes and he realised that we chose exactly the right place to live. As you can imagine, my börek got cold waiting for him to return and we never did get to go to Ikea that day.

Stranger said...

I have to come clean on the percentages thing. I looked at the sign again today and discovered the losing side was 28%, not 58%. So the crappy math is all mine, no surprises there.

Still, the 2% of people who weren't home still doesn't quite add up...

Vicky, may I tell my husband about your co-op? Maybe he'll agree we should move to Izmir. It's sure better than him sneaking vodka down at the barbershop and continuing to believe vodka has no smell.

Vicky, Bursa said...

you may of course tell your husband about our coop - it is a very relaxed one, but we're in Bursa, which makes it all the more lovely that ours is a coop of big drinkers. Maybe they got together as a coop on the back of a few evenings of raki and meze

Stranger said...

Bursa would be okay too. I'm fed up with where we live.

seamus said...

Beylikduzu almost makes me laugh. The same shops and restaurants selling the same things. A kuruyemisci just opened as I left opposite a supermarket and with at least ten TEKEL shops all selling kuruyemis within 5 minutes walk. How on earth is he going to make a living? Why do they not want anything different?

Justme are you going to the Fatih Uni elt conference at the end of April?

Stranger said...

It often occurs to me that people might want something different if it were offered to them. Did you notice the sudden proliferation of "black tomatoes" in markets? Someone finally got brave enough to try to sell a different variety of tomato and because these tomatoes are everywhere, presumably people are buying them. I'm hoping the black tomato opens doors to a whole new world of produce varietals. Maybe stuff that's grown in villages but not sold in cities, like asparagus.

I hadn't made any plans about the ELT Conf. Last year's was supposed to have been pretty good, though Jeremy Harmer is a bit squishy for me. It's cool they got him though. Maybe I'll go just because I haven't done remotely professional for a few years now.

seamus said...

It seems to me that when people open small businesses in Turkey they do not have the concept of business plan and adopt a `inshallah I will be successful` attitude. or `if fate allows it I will be successful.`

My wife says that the best business is a kebab restaurant but I shudder when I think how many have closed down and been replaced by another kebab restaurant where I live.

Last Sept after dropping my son off at school we had breakfast at a little cafe round the corner and it was empty and the people working there were really nice-lots of tea etc. but the woman in the kitchen came out and her son who was the waiter almost had us in tears as they explained they were not making money and it was all the fault on the owner of `inci pasaji` who charged high rents and so it was half empty hence no customers but I just kept thinking there are at least 50 places to eat within 10 minutes and guess what they serve-lentil soup, mememen etc.

Nomad said...

@seamus and Stranger
it is a hallway of Turkish business to locate all the same types of shops in the same area, with the same merchandise, with the same service at the same prices. Turks must prefer it that way.
But-- whisper whisper-- there is something larger at work here. I can give you a hint. Watch an older person, especially a woman, on an empty bus trying to find a seat. She will sit in one place and then move and move and move. Why?

Because Turkish people are not used to having to make decisions or having choices at all. All their lives somebody has made decisions for them. So seeing a black tomato is like some weird thing that leaves them puzzled and they try to avoid it. Thank god, it is gradually changing.

Stranger said...

Heh. I often snigger at patrons coming into a restaurant and watching how long it takes them choose a table, with the waiter tagging along obsequiously behind them and the woman rejecting the first 5 tables...

I figured the arrangement of business was based on the pazar mentality of having everything grouped together for organization. Then all those businesspeople work together to fix prices and send each other customers. How else would they be able to come up with stuff like wig street and lamp avenue?

When we bought our lamps on lamp avenue(in Şişhane), the guy we chose went off to another guy to get one of the lamps we wanted-- he had it on display, but not in his shop. So I also thought maybe some of those shops are actually a single business in four locations, but the shops are too small for them to store everything. Same goes for places like Kapalı Çarşı.

It doesn't work for restaurants though. That seems to need a more usual model of competition, and 5 of the same place don't work where one was thriving. They just all go out of business.

Except somehow it works for Starbucks. Hmmm.

What astounds me is the number of people who open business without the operating capital to carry on at a loss for a long time. Don't they know you're just throwing money away if your place folds after 2 months? That's really sad to me. There's a cursed shop outside my house that's changed businesses at least every 3 months. Then a cleaning supply store opened up which stayed for a couple of years. Then for some reason they decided to sell cheap women's clothing instead and now it's gone.

lara said...

There are two empty shops at the bottom of my block of flats that are just the same. They have been furniture shops, barbers, supermarkets, pastane etc. One man who ran one of them as supermarket furniture shop and pastane -the last time I saw him he was running a chicken and rice 3 wheeled cart opposite the building for a 1 lira at a time.

Stranger said...


nicky said...

The TEKEL shops really make me laugh. They are almost identical selling the exact same stuff. Would it kill them to sell a different type of beer or have a special offer now and again. They are so rough and ready and must be intimidating for women to go in-I have never seem a woman in one.

Stranger said...

It's the color and quality of the lighting in Tekel shops that I find most disturbing. Oh, and the prices of foreign alcohol.