Friday, December 17, 2010

Home Sweet Home... Sort of

The agent for the apartment sat waiting for us at the kitchen table with the final paperwork. She turned out to be a pleasant enough person. We hadn’t been too impressed with her in e-mail correspondence. When she didn’t reply to our messages for information, we contacted the owner directly and discovered that she had gone on vacation! But now she was back and ready to look after the final details of our stay.

One of the things she told us was that when leaving, we had to leave the apartment as we had found it, ready for the next occupant. This meant a thorough cleaning and a washing of all bed sheets. Just what we wanted to do on our holiday, right? Besides, the fact that we needed to leave early in the morning in order to get to the airport on time would not permit us to wash and dry the sheets in time! No problem, said the agent. She could provide a cleaning lady who would do all that for us... for an additional charge... cash up front.

When leasing the apartment, we had to also pay a hefty security deposit. This is understandable when renting a place to complete strangers. You never know what kind of damage they may do. However, we were assured this would be returned to us if we left the apartment in good order. Now the agent informed us that the cost of the electricity we used during our stay would be deducted from the deposit and the rest returned to us. Wait a minute! We thought utilities were included! Well, they are... all except electricity. Guess how the apartment is heated? That’s right... by electric heaters.

So picture this: It’s winter in Paris. And we just came from Africa where it’s 20-30 degrees warmer. Temperatures that people here would consider cool are downright cold to us! In fact, we’ve been shivering since we arrived here! What kind of vacation is it going to be if we’re freezing most of the time in our lovely little apartment? And it would be kind of foolish for us to keep the heat turned down or off while sit huddled together and shivering in the apartment thinking, “This is good, this is fine cuz we’re saving a few bucks!”

But the apartment is cute. First there’s that neat spiral stairway to get up here. Then, once inside the door, we have a living & dining room combo with flat-screen TV, DVD player, and Internet access. A fairly modern and attractive kitchen is located at the far end. A doorway there leads into a small bedroom with a comfortable bed, armoire, and faux fireplace. From there, a couple of steps lead up into a bathroom area with a large modern bathtub, a contemporary style sink, and... an electric toilet. This, I learned, does not mean the seat is heated (though I wish it was!). Because of the space restrictions, there is no tank. The bowl is refilled via an electric pump.

There is another bathroom / utility room near the front door. It contains a toilet, sink, shower cubicle, washer, and the hot water tank. I think it must have originally been a walk-in freezer. It is cold in there! There a heating unit up over the door (yup, it’s electric too), but it makes about as much difference as lighting a match in a cold barn. However, it is possible to have a nice hot shower.

The front door does not have a handle to open and close it. You need a key to open a serious-looking deadbolt. There is also a latch to hold the door closed when the deadbolt is not engaged. The first time we left the apartment, we made sure we had the key with us. Upon returning, however, I could unlock the deadbolt, but couldn’t get the door open! After repeated tries, I realized that the latch was still engaged. I had thought that it too would open with the key, but this did not seem to be the case! Perhaps we had forgotten to engage a catch on the inside to hold it back when we left the apartment...

Now we were in a pickle. We hadn’t even had possession of the apartment for a day and had already locked ourselves out! And we had no way to get hold of the agent. Her number was on a piece of paper in the apartment! Desperate, I tried the lock again. As I was doing so, Kathy began playing with a knob in the middle of the door. I had already tried that. It didn’t do anything. It was just for show. But suddenly there was a click and the door swung open!

What happened? It turns out that the latch is also opened by turning the key past the point where it opens the deadbolt. However, the door is a bit tight, causing the latch to be pressed against the frame with enough force to prevent the key from releasing it. But in playing with the knob, Kathy had inadvertently pulled the door towards her, releasing the pressure on the latch and enabling me to finish turning the key. And presto... the door opened!  Just think, we were that close to being refugees again!  Brrrrrrr!

Excuse me while I go and crank up the heat a few degrees!

No comments: