Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Leak no more, and noise outside the window

The meter technician returned Monday morning. He instantly claimed that the leak in the kitchen was not the responsibility of ista-CIS, despite the extraordinary conjunction of “coincidences” that clearly pointed a finger at the previous technician's visit as being the cause of the leak. He seemed rather grumpy but nevertheless offered to call his office to see if they wanted him to fix the leak. He couldn't get through to the office, and while waiting to call back, he looked at the leak. Apparently the cause was just a leaky washer, so he pulled out a wrench, replaced the washer, and fixed the leak in a few seconds, grumbling that it wasn't the company's responsibility during this time. The leak stopped.

With the leak gone, I was happy, and immediately after fixing the leak, he left, grumbling a fast “Au revoir” as he walked away. Well, at least the leak is gone, and that's all I'm worried about. Although if I catch anyone trying to bill me for anything, I'm not going to be happy.

He insisted that the leak starting during the previous technician's visit was a coincidence. However, I calculate that the chances of that leak started by pure coincidence at the same time that the technician was working on the meter are about 1 in 600,000, which doesn't seem very likely to me. Even if the technician had visited 100 times, instead of just once, the chances of a leak occurring during any of his visits would still be less than 0.017%. I'm sure he must have bumped something or did something that started the leak. And it was on the joint that connected the meter to the apartment, although this technician said that the company is responsible only for the meter itself.

In the old days, I would have just had the leak fixed at my expense—not because it would be my responsibility (it wouldn't), but simply to avoid the tremendous hassle of trying to get people to take responsibility for things. I did that routinely in the past; it was one of the many advantages of having money. Today, I have no money at all, so that option no longer exists, and so I must battle to get other people to do what they should already be doing out of conscience.

In France, in particular, avoiding responsibility seems to be a national institution. In the United States, it is less so, not because Americans have any stronger conscience (that would be too good to be true), but mainly because Americans worry more about possible litigation. In the United States, law substitutes for morality and conscience: if it's legal, it's moral, and if it's illegal, it's immoral. In France, litigation is less of an issue, even though French people sue each other regularly. The difference, I think, is that litigation is more likely to go either way in France, whereas in the U.S. corporations usually seem to lose to individuals. That may come from the fact that France tends to adjudicate most issues using trained judges rather than untrained juries—it is one of the claimed advantages of such a system, although an increased risk of corruption is the flip side of the arrangement.

Right now, there's a tremendous amount of noise outside my window, as a building across the street has its facade steam-cleaned. Paris city ordinances require that facades be cleaned at least every ten years; the laws were put in place thirty years ago and transformed the city from a pile of soot into a photogenic gallery of mostly nineteenth-century architecture. Anyway, the noise is horrendous—but the weird thing is that I was able to sleep through it this morning. I'm so used to street noises (Paris is a noisy city), that the sound of steam cleaning right across the street (loud enough to impede conversation, had I anyone with whom to converse) does not disturb my slumber.

The weather has been very nice these past few days, still a bit warm and humid for my tastes, but nice. Fall weather is often just as nice as spring weather in Paris, but there are fewer tourists (relatively speaking only—there are always lots of tourists in Paris in an absolute sense). I have no money to go out (you can't step outside in a big city without spending money), but the weather is very inviting. I need to look for something else to sell on eBay, maybe.