2264 Arizona Ave in South Lake Tahoe is a nice and cozy house. Its rooms are generous, it has a large lounge, and a fireplace. It looks like it is perfect for chilling out after a day of snowboarding. Or so we thought. We is Heidi and Jussi, two Finish friends, and Philipp and Johannes, two German friends.
When we returned from our first day of snowboarding, we couldn't help but notice that the heating wasn't working. So we called the 24h office of the rental agency and were promised immediate help. Outside, a strong snow storm was setting in. What developed is a tragi-comedy of interesting people, to say it friendly, marching through our living room while we were trying to have dinner.
Act 1. The first contractor appears. He takes a look at the heating and notices that he can't see much, so he asks whether we have a flashlight for him. I give him my small helper flashlight. He discovers that he can't do much and needs more equipment. He leaves.
Act 2. The first contractor reappears. He works a little on the heating, but beyond cold air (from the vents...) he doesn't produce much. He decides to give up and calls another person. Before leaving, he shows us a home-grown trick: He turns up to maximum degree all the four plates of the gas stove. "Look," he declares, "this is how we heat when we are cold." He leaves. So does my flashlight, which I yet have to receive back.
Relieved that he is gone we quickly switch off the gas stove. We decide that we will have to stay in this place anyway, so we should get started preparing dinner. I'm responsible for the cheese fondue, so I leave for the kitchen. Most of what is about to come is a report of my friends.
Act 3. Before starting dinner preparations, I take a call from Dan, the supervising contractor. Dan explains to me that they are trying to fix the heating. Should that not work, they will provide us with four strong heaters that can heat up the house. And if this doesn't work out, we wouldn't have to worry anyway: All the snow that is now coming down will isolate the house well and it will not be as cold as we might imagine.
Act 4. The second contractor appears. Jussi, bridging between kitchen and living room, comments: "He is bringing his equipment. Hum, he is getting out the blowtorch. Uh, he is using the heavy equipment now." All of this is accompanied by loud sounds from the bathroom, where the heating system is located. Alas, he can't fix it, and is gone before I can look around the corner.
Act 5. The second contractor returns. Well, not exactly with his full body, just his two arms, extending through our door from the outside, dropping two heaters on our floor. Cute heaters indeed, but not exactly suggesting they could heat up the place. We manage to call the guy in before he can escape and ask him where the other two promised heaters are and whether he is sure they can heat up the place. "Look," he answers, "I only work for them. You can have these two heaters or none." He leaves.
Act 6. While I go back to the kitchen, Jussi plugs in the two heaters to heat up the living room warm. While I'm back stirring the cheese fondue, Jussi calls out that he is going to plug in the second heater. Then, only darkness. The second heater blew the fuses. We call the rental agency again. Dan is getting defensive: "Sorry, we can't do anything anymore at this hour. We only have these two heaters." The conversation does not end very friendly.
Act 7. While we are having dinner, a third contractor shows up. He is bringing two more heaters, of similar cuteness than the first two heaters. He helps us distribute them around the house, adjust them, and plug them in. In my room, he flatters me for the new click-in bindings of my snowboarding boots. Looks like he took a course on conflict management. At least the heaters stop blowing the fuses and we aren't freezing anymore. But comfortably warm it is not. He leaves.
Act 8. Still at dinner, we get another call from Dan, the supervisor. "Where are my guys?" he asks. I tell him that the last one left a few minutes ago. "Tell him to call me if he comes back", he asks me. I tell him I hope this won't be necessary. Fortunately, this turned out to be the final contact with Dan.
On the next day, we left early and a cold house behind. Fortunately, we had a stunning snowboarding day on fresh powder that helped compensate us for the troubles of the night before.
Dirk Riehle, December 2002.
PS: We did get our money back for Saturday night. According to the rental agency this was solely due to the generosity of the owner of the house. I'm still waiting for my flashlight, though.