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Two days ago, I saw a sign when I got into our antiquated and possibly-on-its-last-legs yet very quaint elevator, the one where you have to pull the gate across after you get in, and where you have to ask your neighbors what floor they’re getting off at, because the elevator doesn’t store numbers, and you have to get off sequentially. Plus my answer (sexto) sounds unhappily close to the word for sex (sexo), so that’s always fun. The sign (remember about the sign?) said that water in the building would be shut off from 2 to 5 PM while some work was going on in the building.

That’s fair. 2-5 PM is a time when most people aren’t around, most have showered, eaten, etc. Plus I was out and about yesterday at that time, and wouldn’t have noticed. Imagine my surprise when at 7:50 PM, I turned on the water, and got… nothing. A little hiss, a tiny trickle, and then nada. Hmm, I thought, opening my 80’s lipstick pink cellphone, checking the time.

Downstairs I went, where I caught Mauricio, the building administrator, a man who if you didn’t have official business with, you surely would never talk to. He’s shifty. Talks in circles, doesn’t make eye contact, and cannot for the life of him remember my last name (Smith!?) or what apartment I live in or even which floor it’s on. I’ve been living here for two years. But I digress.

Don Mauricio, I said (giving him the honorific is a touch between respect and sarcasm), what’s up with the water? A señora de edad (older woman) looked at me and said “Pero m’hija, si en el asensor había un letrero así de gigante diciendo de que se cortaba el sumistro de agua.” (But, dearie, there was a giant sign in the elevator, saying they were going to cut the water). Sí sé, I said, y sé leer. El letrero dijo entre las 2 y las 5” (yes, I know, and I also know how to read. The sign said between 2 and 5) And I flipped open my 80’s lipstick-pink cellphone (see-above) and showed her that it was now nearly 8.

There was dithering, yes there was. And I met my downstairs neighbor Victoria, a lovely 20-something woman with a son, with whom I discussed the faltering state of the building, the suspicious activities of the building manager, and how there are a couple of Roman Polanski DVDs that I should rent which talk about living in community. Turns out we got to the same DVD “club,” the one where the owner was complicit in the cheating, philandering behavior of a gringa’s exboyfriend. She admonished me never to go there again, but given how often I rent DVDs, it really hasn’t been much of an issue, and I guessed Victoria didn’t need to hear the story.

In the end, the building manager left long before the water was turned on, and I ran between my apartment, faucet set to “on,” and the 7th floor which has access to the roof, to talk to the maestro, which is a blanket term used to describe workmen, though, as Victoria pointed out, this particular one didn’t seem to be much of a master. Two neighbor gents were vigilando (watching, supervising) the maestro as he disappeared through the machine room up onto the roof, banged a little, and then returned. And I bopped up and down and up and down, exchanging pleasantries with the other neighbors, both in their 60s or 70s, and showing off my stellar estado físico (gym training) by hopping up and down the stairs, and my poor hostessing skills, leaving the boyfriend down in my apartment alone with a block of oregano goat cheese and some whole wheat crackers.

Eventually (at about 9:30) my water was turned back on (the other sectors of the building having had their water switched on much earlier), I kept my cool and yelled at nary a soul, though I was a little cheeky with the neighbor who admonished me to have read the sign. I got to know my two upstairs neighbors, the guy with the grey hair, and the guy without, who excitedly ran back and forth in their dress shoes (slippa slippa slippa) to make sure they still had water despite the maestro’s fumblings.

I have enough excitement in my life without water unexpectedly disappearing, it’s true. But in a way I was glad that we’d had this little adventure. It got us out and about and saying hey to the neighbors. Also, since I’m from the United States and we use complaining as small-talk, it was a strangely comfortable situation, the sitting and complaining and running up and down and kvetching and then the profuse thanking, all the while the maestro cocking his head to the side as though that would help him to understand me and my accent better.

And now there’s water. Whatever will we talk about? The feeble elevator is next to go, I’m afraid.