Posted by: 4initalia | December 10, 2017

One Lump or Two? Or, Andy Tries to Kill Us

On Sunday, warm and comfy in our University of Bologna (UniBo) apartment, I fired up the washing machine. It made a droning hum and all was well, until Andy decided to try to kill us by making tea, which sucked up the three volts of electricity allocated to our apartment building and left us exposed to the Italian elements: icy darkness and dark iciness.

The washer went quiet, and we had no power, no lights, not even internet access. I eyed my huge new fluffy scarf: maybe I could survive this.

However Andy, who packed 900 coats, (but somehow managed to use only one suitcase; how is that possible?) was on his own: he’s the one who made the killer tea.

The apartment has only one window, but fortunately, it’s about 20 feet tall, so we used the waning sunlight to read the UniBo instructions about what to do in case of electrical problems: “If the electricity goes out, call this number. But not on Sunday.”

Hoping that the University wouldn’t want the cleaners to find us frozen to the mattress on Wednesday, I called UniBo’s number for general assistance.

I reached an answering machine, and a very polite recording indicated that we were going to die of cold and darkness waaay before anyone checked the machine. But with Andy counting on me to use my Italian language skills to save us, I left a message anyway – a garbled mix of English, Italian and non-denominational gibberish.

I tried to tell them what the problem was, but instead of saying we had no electricity, I said we were American. Then I tried to say which apartment we’re in, but Andy corrected me and I lost my place, so I stammered out a heap o’words not indicative of our location. In desperation, I tried to give them Andy’s phone number, but I got it wrong and had to start over  – and then I realized I should use numbers in Italian, and then the answering machine’s patience gave out,  and my last words were “%%$@(#$**!!!.”

I called back, but all of the ways I had made a fool of myself made me giggle – and I couldn’t think of how to start over, and that made me fold over and laugh harder, so the machine recorded only peals of laughter, from somewhere near the floor.

Andy berated me for botching our rescue: “It’s getting dark, and we’re going to freeze, and you’re laughing??!”

Rage, rage against the dying of the light?

Time for Plan D:  we tried to call our friend at the University,  Maria – but without access to the internet, we couldn’t find her phone number. When Andy tried to call Maria, he got our friend Elena instead. Because he was too proud to tell Elena we were going to die of cold and embarrassment in our otherwise adorable apartment, he told Elena only he had called her by mistake, and hung up.

At least he didn’t start to laugh – that would have really been wrong.

Now the only light was directly in front of the window. There’s a single candle here – but no matches. I thought of turning on the electric stove to light the candle, but it’s dark in the kitchen, so I’d have to turn on the light, first.

Even the Little Match Girl had matches, people.

Andy found another number – for “outside of normal hours” emergencies. I steeled myself for further communication, and fortunately, a calm male voice answered. But he didn’t speak English, and I don’t speak electrician. He asked me to look at the fuse box next to the door, and I did, and it looked like a fuse box, alrighty. There were buttons, and switches, and everything looked dandy to me, except that I couldn’t see it, in the dark.

Mr. Calm tried to get me to fix the fuse box, by using words appropriate to a person fixing a fuse box, but we weren’t using the same dictionary, never mind on the same page. He gave up, and said he’d either be here within the hour, or we were going to freeze to death.

I wrapped myself in my comfy scarf, and waited for our demise.

For the next hour, Andy and I reviewed the issues in our marriage, like his vicious tea-making, and my inability to get through a crisis without laughing uncontrollably. But just as the last beam of light fell with a thud against the window, the bell rang. The kindly man had arrived!

He didn’t come upstairs; Andy met him in the lobby.

The lights came on – we’re saved!! And then they went off.

But then they came on – yaaaaaayyyy!!


And on.


Apparently, I was supposed to look at the fuse box downstairs – next to the outside door, and flip that fuse switch, to prevent us from suffering a long cold slide into death. Like, yah, I totally knew that.

The lights are back on, the washer is mumbling again, and I put my new scarf on the hook with Andy’s millions of coats.

But I’m watching him closely, for signs he wants to kill us, by making tea.


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