I stepped into the shower half asleep the other day, and very abruptly discovered that my hot water heater had broken. As I creatively maneuvred my body to minimize contact with the cold water while still managing to rinse out the shampoo from my hair, I remember thinking this is not that big of a deal. I certainly didn't enjoy the experience (I'm the type of person who not infrequently wears a sweater in July), but it didn't register on my radar as something to flip out about. The actual tank is in another tenant's apartment. It's not like I could go take a peek at it and see if there were any clues as to why I no longer had hot water. This was completely out of my control.
Once at work, I emailed my landlord, assuming he would deal with it. There are perks to renting, and not having to deal with repairs and maintenance are among them. He told me to contact the hot water tank rental company, and then coordinate with the other tenant for the repairman to have access to the tank. Though still convinced this issue fell squarely on the 'not my problem' list, I called the hot water tank company (HW):
M: Hi! The hot water tank I am renting from you seems to have broken.
HW: I can send someone to take a look at it today.
M: Great! Here's the issue though - it's not actually in my apartment.
HW: Do you have access to it?
M: Nope. It's in someone else's apartment. My landlord wanted me to call you directly though.
HW: When can I send someone then?
M: I guess it would be up to the other tenant. Listen, can I ask you a hot water tank etiquette question?
M: Normally in situations like these, do you typically deal with the landlord because that's who has a key to access the hot water tank?
HW: Typically, yes.
M: So if I call my landlord back and tell him that you would prefer to deal with him directly, that's kosher?
M: Great. Thanks so much! You've been very helpful.
I hung up, and emailed my landlord back informing him that this little issue was indeed his problem. He then (begrudgingly, I suspect) dealt with the hot water people and (finally) got the repair done a few days later. Luckily, the timing coincided with me being out of town for the weekend, so I only had to deal with cold showers before work twice.
All this to say that I am slowly learning two things:
1 - Most things in life are not worth getting worked up over. Though not having hot water is problematic, far worse things can happen.
2 - Don't be afraid to ask for what you want/ Just because someone else says it's your problem, doesn't mean it actually is your problem. In the past, I'm sure I would have taken my landlord's initial instruction to coordinate with the other tenant at face value. This would have meant needing to be home when the repair guy came, making lots of phone calls, etc, etc. A little initiative on my part meant that I was free to enjoy a weekend away visiting family and friends while someone else (who cashes a sizable cheque from me monthly) dealt with the hot water tank.