The Cost of Having New Heat Installed in Your Apartment

Also, the cost of a bottle of coconut water.

This is not my happy face.

Part 1: The surprise

So I knew my landlord was planning to update the heat in the building, because about a week ago I had received a note under my door alerting me that, at a certain time and date, two men would come in and evaluate the best way to update the heat in my unit—but I didn’t know that, two weeks later, I’d get a knock on my door at 10 a.m.

“You… are not expecting me,” the man said.

It turned out that this was the person who was going to fix the heating, and that I should have known this because, last week, he left me a business card.

“I saw that someone had dropped a business card in the hallway,” I said. “I thought it was trash.”

“Yeah, I wrote all the details about the appointment on the back,” he said. “I should have slipped it under the door.”

So I packed up my laptop, grabbed my purse, and let him start bashing a hole in my wall or whatever he needed to do to upgrade the heat.

It occurred to me, after I left, that this would be a very good way for someone to rob an apartment. I didn’t have any reason to believe that this person wasn’t who he said he was, especially because I had recently picked up a business card that had been left in the hallway and recycled it without checking for any personalized messages, but I was also struck by how quickly I left my apartment in the care of a stranger.

On the other hand, I was currently carrying my laptop, my phone, my credit cards, my debit card, my checkbook, my drivers’ license, and my passport with me, which meant there was nothing left in my apartment worth stealing.

Part 2: The adventure

I went to the nearest coffee shop because I still had at least seven hours of my workday to go, and grabbed a coconut water out of the refrigerator.

“That’ll be eight dollars,” the barista said.

“Okay,” I said, “we are not going to do that.” (I’ll let a stranger into my apartment, but I draw the line at $8 coconut water.)

I put the eight-ounce bottle of coconut water back into the refrigerator—“It’s cold-pressed,” the barista explained apologetically—and asked if I could just get a cup of tea. This $3.89-with-tip small tea came with a detailed explanation of how it was brewed, which gave me the impression that I was in absolutely the wrong coffee shop for getting work done. They wanted me to appreciate their beverages, and I wanted to sit quietly by myself and use the Wi-Fi.

By lunchtime, my dying laptop was almost fully charged—which is good, because it was time for me to decamp and go somewhere else. Not because this place was kicking me out or doing one of those things where they kill access to the Wi-Fi, but because they didn’t serve anything that could count as a meal, and I wasn’t interested in having a cold-pressed muffin for lunch.

It took me an hour to get from the coffee shop to the place I ended up choosing for lunch, first because the nearest neighborhood was 30 blocks away (I live in Seattle, but I also kind of live in the middle of nowhere, services-wise) and second because the cafe I was aiming towards, where I’ve eaten lunch many times before, was unexpectedly closed.

So I kept walking until I found a laptop-friendly lunch place—and ended up at this hippie coffee shop where I spent $16.20-with-tip on a kind of gross free-range turkey sandwich and a chocolate cookie that was the size of the plate it came on. (I ate half.) Also, a bottle of Perrier, because that was what was available.

At this point I was thoroughly sick of fancy-pants and hippie-pants coffee shops where they anxiously try to explain why their average food is really the best, and longed for the placid corporate security of a Starbucks. Unfortunately, the nearest Starbucks was another 20 blocks away. (I know. What kind of world are we living in?)

I sat at the hippie coffee shop for as long as I could—which wasn’t very long, because the Wi-Fi wasn’t consistent and my table smelled like sour powdered sugar, thanks to the uneaten half of my chocolate cookieand then walked down the street to the library.

As far as libraries go, this one is pretty good. I’m being coy about where exactly my travels are taking me, I guess because I don’t want anyone else to avoid certain establishments just because they sell $8 coconut water or not-great sandwiches, but this library has decent internet and plenty of seats and a quiet room for those of us who want to work in peace. (I started out planning to work in the quiet room, but there were people in there talking. Go figure.)

At the end of the day I walked the thirty blocks back home. I could have taken the bus, but sometimes you just need to walk for two miles before you can face what you assume will be a giant mess in your apartment.

Part 3: The second surprise

There was not a giant mess in my apartment. I was really impressed, actually, especially considering the last time someone came into my (former) apartment and cut a hole in the wall. This contractor cleaned everything up and, as far as I could tell, both swept the floors and vacuumed the carpets. (I only found one tiny pile of overlooked drywall dust, and that was just me being nit-picky.)

Then I realized what had been installed.

There’s a sticker warning me to keep all items three feet away from the front of the heater.

That is an electric heating unit, to replace what I assume was boiler heat. Previously, I was not responsible for paying heat, but since this is electric, I’m guessing I’ll be paying the electricity on this new heater and the one installed in my bedroom.

Plus—and this is mostly an aesthetic thing—both of my apartment’s rooms now have two huge unusable spaces because the new heating units take up space and the old bulky heat units are still attached to the walls. I could in theory put furniture or something in front of the old units, since they’ll no longer be emitting heat, but they jut out from the walls, so… yeah, nope. My couch is now super-close to my work desk because the new heating unit was installed where the couch used to be—and before you ask, yes I did rearrange the furniture four times. There just isn’t that much room in my room.

I’m still debating between #3 and #4.

Anyway, this experience cost me $20.09, multiple feet of usable floor and wall space, and whatever it’ll cost in the winter to heat my apartment.

But at least I didn’t pay $8 for a bottle of coconut water.