Vive la difference!
I was in
And it’s understandable. I mean those old steam radiators are often encased in exotic wood that you just can’t buy anymore, and the pipes are buried like dead bodies inside marble soffits, and have been for a hundred years or more. Those pipes are tough to get at.
And fuel is still relatively cheap here compared to what it costs in
My audience thought all of this was delightful in a primal sort of way – that we use 19th-Century technology to heat many of our buildings. They looked at the photos in my PowerPoint presentation as if they were something recently picked from a nose. They looked at each other. They looked at me. They shook their heads. Some giggled.
I explained that we have no heating police in
I told my audience that in
I told them that there are two basic types of installers in
Which can be a problem, since the only people who understand Boutiques are other Boutiques, and when Boutiques speak to each other, they’re almost always arguing over who has the larger brain. No customer has ever understood a Boutique, and that’s why more American stuff gets sold in
Which brings me to Grandpas. Grandpas sell the American stuff, and the older that stuff is, the longer it has been around, the better. A Grandpa won’t try anything new and he’ll always ask you for stuff that you haven’t stocked for 20 years. Grandpas are just now getting used to copper tubing. They think plastic is for communists. They like single thermostats with mercury tubes and they like these to start and stop big pumps on long loops of big pipe that run out to huge radiators. The bigger the better. They like boilers that maintain 190° F. water 365 days a year. They drool over tankless coils and they love getting paid in cash. They write their proposals on the backs of their business cards because they know that details just confuse people.
By the time a Grandpa tries something new, it’s no longer new, but, oh, can they talk! Grandpas, like most consumers, have opinions about everything, and this is why the two get along so well. Both agree that things ain’t what they used to be, and that nobody makes anything good anymore. And both groups believe that a boiler should last at least eighty years and maybe longer.
I explained to my new European friends how American consumers will get the idea of efficiency in their heads when the price of fuel is rising, and they’ll call the Boutiques to learn more about that because Boutiques usually advertise (Grandpas don’t have to advertise). The Boutique will stop by, talk to the consumer in white noise, and then give a price that will make the consumer’s ears bleed. The consumer will hurry that price over to the Grandpa, who will explain to the consumer that the Boutique is a no-good thief and that none of that stuff from
My audience was enthralled.
I showed photos of one Grandpa’s exposed wiring that looked like a bowl of linguine with clam sauce (Hey, I can’t see it from my house!). I also showed the precision work of Boutiques, who level every wire in the house. “See?” I said to my new friends. “In
I showed them boilers that had once burned coal, and had since been converted to burn oil, and now natural gas. Same boiler, and it was the size of a minivan and had no jacket. “We like to conserve natural resources,” I explained. “Here, we are conserving a ton of cast-iron.” They gagged on their coffee.
“I live in a place called the Isle of Long,” I told them. “It’s a small country off the east coast of
Oh, and in that
I explained the they were replacing the old boiler with a new one. “That’s why I was there,” I said. “They wanted an opinion on the old steam system.”
“And what sort of boiler will they be putting in now?” he asked.
“Same thing,” I said. “Steam.” (more gagging).
“And the radiators? Will someone still have to open and close the valves for the wealthy tenant when he is too hot and too cold?”
“Oh, sure. That’s all part of the service this building offers. Pretty swanky, don’t you think?”
Gag, gag, gag.