We've been taking cold showers for a couple of weeks now. There's something wrong with the gas water heater. Andreia, the domestic assistant, is freaked. She says the pilot light is going out on its own...and she doesn't want to be in the laundry room anymore until it's better. So, we're on a quest to find out how these things are repaired in Brazil.
This is not as easy as it sounds.
Everyone tells us to call CEG, the municipal gas company, because independent repairmen aren't very reliable. And CEG has a great website, with actual information and a current pricing table, so we are prepared for about a R$200 charge for routine maintenance and a house visit. Steep, but if we get water, worth it.
There's a problem though. Not a single service company in Rio makes appointments. They say, "We'll be there tomorrow between 9 and 5, or in the next three days between working hours (10-4). As if everyone had an elderly mother watching soap operas all day, a maid to answer the door or a housewife baking cookies just hanging around for eight hours a day. We can't ask for time off work to sit around waiting for the repairman to show!(That's not entirely true. If you buy groceries online, for a nice fee of R$15, they'll deliver to your home. I guess they assume that all single full-timers are independently wealthy, but they do recognize our schedules, and only deliver after 8 pm.)
So we have to schedule for the day Andreia is here and hope that she's got a lot of work to keep her busy until the gas man cometh. She does. And he does. But... no hot water at the end of the day. No literal hot water. There is, however, a bill or an estimated expense sheet, to the tune of R$850, a dismantled hot water heater that is otherwise untouched by new parts, and a business card and a handwritten index card with the cost for a new water heater that we can purchase from the repairman's personal place of business. How touching.
My roommate looks at me with big eyes and says,
"I'm hoping you can help me decipher this..."
We decide it HAS to be an estimate. There's no way they'd do work THAT expensive without the renter's signature...and surely the maid's doesn't count, right? And we're poring over the repairman's bad handwriting. Roomie says,
"Okay, well, I looked at the hot water heater. I don't know what a CRG is but I know what a solenoide is and he hasn't installed one..."
"Good Lord, you're so sexy!"
Gotta love living with an engineer...even if we're taking Artic showers at the moment. I can't wait to see her arguing solenoides with the stupefied CEG guy trying to rip us off...