Some of the story below will have to do with living in an apartment in a city, but a lot of the problems to my mind are not too unusual for Brazil, and are worse in places like Rio.
Last week there was finally some action resolving a problem I’d been having with my air conditioner. I only have one small AC in my bedroom and the lack of air circulation here in the summer means it can be a little warm in other rooms. The AC has always been old and crappy, but worked well enough and I could sleep with it on during a hot night. Well, the plastic button broke and it became impossible to easily turn on/off or adjust the settings.
After a few calls, someone came out, cleaned it up, and said it really need more work than just a button and they’d have to take it in.
So, someone came to take it in after consulting with the apartment agency, and promised to have it back in one day.
On the second day without the AC, I decide to go buy a fan. I walk to the local grocery store, which carries fans. Only 220 v fans, and Porto Alegre is 110 v. Great. It’s getting late, and I want a fan. I take a cab for R$15 to a hyper market (think super Wal-mart). They only have 220 v fans. Fine. I buy one, R$50, and spend R$20 for the cab ride home. Because of all the problems getting the wrong washing machine back in October, I do have a transformer and can move it to run the 220 v fan.
When I get home, I can’t assemble the fan. There’s a piece to remove that won’t come off. Nothing in the instructions either about how to do it. Sucker was fixed tight, and had to be removed to allow the blades to be installed. My girlfriend tried to assemble it, similarly failing. Fine. There was still enough time to take it back. Another R$20 for the cab. Once there, we talk about exchanging it, and a guy comes out to check out the fan. He removes the problem piece in about 5 seconds. There was a little trick to it that was far from obvious. Anyway, he assmbles the whole thing, and we go home in another cab, another R$20.
Day three without the AC, Friday looking toward the weekend, I get a bunch of calls right as I’m trying to head out the door for Portuguese class. I talk with the apartment agency twice, but one time is on hold for about ten minutes. Also talk with the AC repair guy (or my girlfriend did). There’s a problem with payment. Basically, since my colleague officially has the apartment in her name, she needs to authorize it, since they are not taking responsibility for the AC problems (we didn’t note it as a problem when I moved in). R$200. And then they will either just add it to the rent or have it paid cash.
I’m only 45 minutes to my 90 minute Portuguese class.
I had moments of pure frustration. This sort of problem would have never happened to me in the U.S. My Brazilian friends assure me this sort of hassle is normal, and may explain the laid-back attitude here. If you don’t cultivate it, you have regular heart attacks. Remember, I was hot and sweaty and was working my ass off to be cool, on a day I was also exhausted from sleeping in the heat and busy spending hours on a problem when I didn’t have the time.
Anyway, it’s not always so bad, but Brazil has its moments. Still catching up on things here, and will continue to catch up…