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The Column

The Night the Heat Went Off

I am not a criminal. Sure, I have broken a few laws - illegal u-turns, underage drinking, and my nasty habit of removing tags from mattresses. But I would never do anything that could land me in prison. I'm just not tough enough to survive. I complain when I get cold.

I thought I'd become tougher over the last few years. Traveling has forced me to live on little sleep, jet lag, and fast food. But instead of becoming tougher, I just get sick more often. I know I'm a wuss - it's my cross to bear. Though if I had an actual cross to bear, I'd probably complain a lot because of the wuss thing.

You really find out what you're made of when the chips are down, when push comes to shove, and when you run out of clichés. And in some circumstances, I have risen to the occasion. (See Kippur, Yom) But the night the heat went off is not one of them.

In February of 2003, I shared a tiny two bedroom apartment with two girls. No, I didn't sleep with either of them. One was a horrible person, and the other had a husband. It was someone else's husband, but it was still a husband.

Let's call the nicer one Allie and the meaner one Kate, because those are their actual names. Yes, I lived across the hall from Kate and Allie. The room next to Sanford and Son was taken.

Allie, despite the whole home wrecker thing, was a nice girl. She didn't know the guy was married when they started dating, which makes things more the guy's fault. Kate, on the other hand, was NOT a nice girl, and most other problems were HER fault. She was one of those people who told stories about a terrible fight, and everyone she told clearly knew she started it. And then she'd get upset when people wouldn't take her irrationally quick-to-anger side.

It was my turn not to get along with her. I really tried. I was always polite, paid my rent early, and didn't keep anything I owned in the common area. The common area was a kitchen/living room hybrid, known to me as my kitching room. Or her kitching room, because I didn't put any of my stuff there.

One day, the heat in our building stopped working, though the management company was nice enough to provide a space heater. One space heater. For a two bedroom apartment. In fairness, they may have figured the apartment was so damned small that one heater would be enough.

I ran the heater in my room the first night because Kate and Allie were on vacation. They were both back visiting their parents in Canada, which was probably warmer than my room. They were also looking into visas to stay in the United States - theirs had expired, and they were trying to figure out how to stay in America so Kate could fight with more people.

They arrived back in the apartment on day two, after I placed the heater in the kitching room so we could all share the warmth. I was out working, so they took the heater into their room. That's fair - they could heat their room enough so they could sleep, and then it'd be my turn. Or that's what would happen in a civilized living environment.

I got back from my last show at 3AM, when it was nine degrees outdoors and probably four degrees in my room. I walked in to the girls' room to get the heater. The girls' room, which was now about 90 degrees because they'd been running the heat so long.

I didn't realize that Kate had set a trap by wrapping the heater's cord around her wrist. It worked; she caught me blue-handed. Kate yelled at me to leave the heater with her and Allie, neither of whom were using their blankets because their room was so hot.

Not wanting to evoke the wrath of a wrathful person with lots of wrath, I layered up and went to sleep, wearing four sweatshirts, three pairs of jeans and socks, and a wool hat. It was a real pleasant evening. And the best part was when Kate woke me up a few hours later to yell at me some more.

I didn't want to write this column immediately because, as mad as I was at Kate, I didn't want to get her in any real trouble. After all, she was violating US law at the time and, though she should be punished, I don't imagine deportation to Canada or prison would have been appropriate.

Though it does get cold in both places.

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