Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Am I Wrong to Complain?

I am spending today in Amman's airport waiting for my flight to Tel Aviv.  I am going to visit friends and new babies in Jerusalem and have a nice, relaxing break for a few days.  And even though I'm on vacation, I'm having a bit of a hard time calming down after events this week.

Sometimes I feel like all I do is complain about my house.  Maybe it's because I had such horrible luck with my Oakwood apartment.  I wasn't blogging much then, but I had my share of ridiculous issues.  There was no heat in the winter; they were working on the A/C (which means turning it off) during the summer.  At one point it was so hot in my seventh floor apartment that I seriously considered moving into the front lobby for a few days, dog and all.  They provided a portable A/C when I suggested that.  (And got State's PCS housing people involved, which helped a lot.)  The elevators were frequently broken or out of order, which meant frequent trips up and down the six flights of stairs (2-3 times a day) with a stair-phobic dog.  Then there was the time Hattie and I got stuck in the elevator for 35 minutes on a Sunday night.  Or the time a steel beam fell out of the ceiling and hit me in the head, knocking me to the ground.  Luckily it missed Hattie.  Or maybe the two (!) times I came home to find all of my UAB and HHE piles moved and disorganized so they could work on the HVAC systems.  And that's just what I remember off the top of my head; I know there was more.  So I'm a little sensitive about housing.

I've (mostly) gotten over the fact that my apartment here is small, has few kitchen cabinets, and the furniture is icky and dorm-like.  I can deal with that.  It's not ideal, but it's a place to live and I don't have to pay for it.  Bed bugs were something I couldn't overlook. Now that that's solved (it only took almost three months...), I am much more relaxed.

Except for this week.

I came home Saturday night to find my kitchen flooded.  The water cooler had started leaking.  Looking back, maybe the fact that I no longer could get super cold water out of it was the first sign.  But still.  Even though it was a GSO cooler, I got the compound guys to come over and unplug it (the plug was duct taped to the extension cord!) so I didn't have to walk into the flooded kitchen and risk electrocution.  They also very nicely mopped it up.  But no potable water for a couple days.  Lots of bottled water instead.  They're supposed to put the new one in today, so everything should work out.

Yesterday I came home, ready to pack and get to bed early.  As I walked into the stairwell, I was hit by an overwhelming odor.  Sort of like paint, but stronger and more toxic, like floor waxing polish or some industrial cleaner.  The floor was sticky and slippery.  So were the handrails and walls.  I made it upstairs to find my door coated as well.  I went inside hoping for relief,  but instead I walked into a literal cloud of toxic-smelling whatever.  I immediately had to throw up.  It was so bad.  I threw open windows and doors to air the place out.  I grabbed the cat I could find and took him into my bedroom, which was a bit better since I keep that door closed during the day.  I couldn't find the second cat.  I was terrified he jumped out a window when my back was turned or had passed out from the  lack of fresh air somewhere inaccessible.  After 15 minutes of frantic searching, I found him under the couch, wide eyed and terrified.  I've never seen him like that.  I managed to pry him out and get him into my room.  He ran under the bed and resumed frantic position.  I held the other cat up to the open window to let him breathe some fresh air.  He seemed to revive a bit (he'd been lethargic).  I called Maintenance.  They told me it was a fogging treatment for mosquitoes.  They seemed totally nonplussed when I explained that it was making me and my cats sick.  I rolled a towel and put it against the door to try to keep the pesticides out.  After about 10 minutes Callaghan finally came out from under the bed.  I let him breathe fresh air, and then he cuddled right up to me, obviously feeling better.  We stayed in my room for more than an hour while I let the rest of the place air out.  It was almost bearable when we emerged, and I kept the windows and screen door open all night.  This morning it was almost back to normal.  Almost.

So there you go.  I needed to get all my complaints out in one place.  And now I have to ask.  Am I wrong to complain?  Is this normal in the FS, particularly for leased housing?  Should I just bite my tongue and buck up?  I just can't imagine that there are this many serious problems everywhere.  I consider myself pretty patient and tolerant, but at this point, I've been losing my cool more and more easily.  I went to all those health/safety briefings at FSI, and my impression was that pests, pesticides, and floods in the home were pretty serious problems that would get solved in a timely manner.  Or prevented from happening.  Was that just a rosy picture of things?  I'd love to hear from some seasoned veterans about whether I'm being unreasonable.  If I am, I'll accept that.  I just have a hard time believing this is the norm.  Thanks for letting me vent.