08
Dec
06

New York Lesson No. 332: Morse Code, Radiator-Style

I thought it only happened in movies, but as of last night, I am officially a witness to a tenant communicating with the super by banging on the radiator.

Usually on film, the character bang-bang-bangs on the thing with a wooden spoon or wrench or something to create as much ear-splitting racket as possible. This person was relatively conservative, with his economical single, clear, solid clank! every 20 minutes or so.

The correspondence was simple but unmistakable: “Turn on the bloody heat!”

I can’t say how effective this method of communication is. It’s sort of like sending pulses out into space in the hope that extraterrestrials will receive them and good-naturedly bounce them back to us before they are flummoxed by broadcasts of the Spice Girls or Hitler. I don’t know whether the super received the message or not, or whether it induced him to fire up the boiler, but I certainly heard it loud and clear. And so, I suspect, did everyone else in the apartments below me. And though my hooded sweatshirt, warm-up pants and wool socks testified to my agreement with the tenant’s position on the matter, I would rather he had clanked on the super’s lobby apartment door than send the message via my living room as well. After all, if any one of us on floors one through five had any control over the situation, there would have been no need to bang in the first place.

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