I stumbled across the apartment from our bedroom to the bathroom at four in the morning, being careful to open my eyes only the barest slit in order to preserve my sleepiness, hoping that I could easily slide back into bed and off to sleep again. But then I heard it, that tiny noise ... there was definitely something dripping.
Remembering our experience in LongHu when a burst pipe in the apartment above resulted in icy cold water dripping into our bedroom in the early hours of the morning, I had learnt that it is usually worthwhile checking up on dripping sounds. Opening my eyes a little more, and turning on the bathroom light, I noticed that the hot water system was dripping onto the washing machine. No big deal, back to bed and worry about it later.
But the damage was done, I couldn't just go back to sleep. I lay there and wondered what I should have done, and soon I was up again. The water was definitely coming from the water heater and not from the ceiling above, and it was dripping quite fast from at least three different spots. The bathroom floor was already puddled and slippery. So I put down towels and turned off supply taps and tried again to sleep.
In the morning we found the drips had continued unabated despite turning off taps. So we told our contact person at work and we were told the landlord would come in and fix the problem.
So the next day they all came. The landlady - sweet little person - and her tall thin husband, and son who actually knew a little bit of English. And the "professional man" who was to replace the hot water system. They chattered and argued amongst themselves, and there was coming and going, up and down the stairs. They discovered in the process that our intercom handpiece doesn't always work - and they seemed dissatisfied with our system of giving it a good hit every time. The doorbell also chose this time to stop sounding like a cow's last gasp, it gave up the ghost completely and fell silent. And the bathroom heater - one of those with heat lamps and a built-in exhaust fan - had never worked, but with winter well on it's way in they said they would replace that too. The electrician would be called, another professional person.
That's our front door, on the right, next to the troublesome intercom phone. The narrow little door with the imitation stain-glass window is the bathroom. So this little corner of the world is where everyone wanted to be.
So it was like living in Grand Central Station for a while. I was glad I didn't need the toilet - our little bathroom was full of people. The apartment door was left open for all the coming and going, and our neighbour happened by and was curious as to what was going on. She wandered in to have a chat with the landlady and the workmen, noticed me sitting there trying to do some lesson preparation and indulged herself in a good long stare. Then she asked the other people about me - I don't know all the words, but I do know the word for "understand" - and being reassured that I didn't have a clue she proceeded to wander into my kitchen and have a good snoop around.
I had to go out to work - at least there was a toilet I could use at work, albeit a "squat". By the end of the day's lessons I was feeling quite out of sorts, having had my whole daily routine - such as it is - turned around. It was so nice to come home to a nice hot shower. And what a difference! Instead of the previous barest trickle of warm water, we now have a gushing hot shower. But the dripping - now from the pipes - was much worse. We had buckets and containers catching the drips, and we had to turn off all the supply taps overnight.
So over the next few days they all came back again, and again. It took several attempts to fix the leaking pipes - they dug a big hole in the wall out in the stairwell - and then they had to keep coming back to check if it was fixed. A man came and put in the bathroom heater - mmm! warmth! - on another day. And then they all came back and took the intercom handpiece apart and fixed that. The next day they checked the pipes again.
Our brand new water heater, complete with shiny pipes and taps - no more rust stains on the wall and no more dripping!
Yesterday I had some sort of stomach thing - up late at night befriending the porcelain. So this morning - as I don't have a lesson till this evening - I luxuriated in bed, planning maybe a long hot bath, now that our water is all hot and gushy. In the end I got up about 10 and languished in the shower instead. The phone rang and Peter answered - it was our boss in Shanghai. As I started getting out of the shower and wrapped myself in one of our large bathsheets (unlike locally available towels), I was vaguely aware of a noise at the apartment door. Peter was still on the phone and I was almost wrapped when the whole bunch (including the neighbour!) burst in through the door. Apparently the water heater needed another check-up - ? And of course they needed to fix the door-bell which would of warned me of their impending embarrassment. And, yes, they were more embarrassed than I was.
Its all over bar the shouting
So I had never thought much about this expression, but I think I just found out what it means.
Another workman just turned up on my doorstep. He didn't ring the "bell", just banged on the door with the back of his hand. He was already quite upset, he had been shouting on his phone in the stairwell before he started hitting the door. He had a bucket and other equipment with him, and was apparently upset about the fact that the wall outside our apartment is all fixed. The other day there was a hole in it, then it was filled in with some black stuff that made the whole stairwell smell like vomit, then they plastered it over, then someone painted it in the same flaking grey as everything else - you really couldn't tell there had been anything there. (We have often been amazed by the ability of workmen in this country to erect buildings that look ancient, flaking and worn down from day one.) I was guessing it was his job to plaster the wall and someone had jumped in ahead of him, but I had nothing useful I could tell him, I hadn't even seen who had fixed the wall, it just happened. He was sniffing the wall (I guess he knows about these smells too) and running up and down the flight of stairs to the nearest window, and shouting angrily in his phone.
My caring neighbour could stand it no longer - you can only see so much through a peep-hole! - and she suddenly decided the outside of her door needed polishing. She came out with a cloth and wiped it down, said a few words to the workman, and then popped back inside. I figured there was not much to gain by leaving my door wide open and letting all that cold air in, so I pulled it to so he could check inside again without hurting his hand if he needed to.
Mrs Care-a-lot decided it was, after all, her business, and came back out into the stairwell for a really good go at him. The argument became increasingly heated and I was sure I would soon hear blows. Another man's voice (her husband?) tried to gently intervene a few times. Suddenly she pulled my door open and stepped inside - I have no idea what she hoped to acheive, she knew I was there - and then she looked a little embarrassed (a first for her) and closed the door.
All is quiet now. Hopefully if the saying is true it's all over now!
This whole drippy drama started over a week ago now. This morning there was another man banging on the door - then he apparently noticed the doorbell and used that. I was ready for the worst as I opened the door, thinking the angry ant was back. But here was another "professional man" from the water heater company, neatly dressed in the company uniform, nodding and bowing a little, shuffling his feet nervously about wanting to enter my apartment. He came in quietly and checked everything, ran the hot water, checked the guages, and then asked me to sign a piece of paper - in triplicate, I got to keep the pink copy. I was reminded again of why we so enjoy living and working here, the people are so gentle and polite. It's a pleasure dealing with them.