Let me preface this by saying that we feel very privileged to live in Rome.  It’s a historical and artistic jewel box where adults eat gelato in the afternoon, we really do love it here.

That being said, there is a phenomenon among ex-pats and foreigners that when expressing frustrations they end the rant with a “but we’re in Rome!  Can’t complain.”  Daily, I’ve heard people say things like:

-“The bus driver just ditched us in a neighborhood I don’t know, no one will point me toward Termini or answer my questions, it’s dark and it’s raining, but I’m in Rome!”

-“The heating in our building only turns on between five and midnight.  We can’t plug in a space heater without losing power to half our apartment.  When we wake up our apartment is in the forties, but we’re in Rome!”

-“Yeah, someone stole the windshield off my scooter last night, but hey, what can you do?  We’re in Rome!”

I’m guilty of this too, infact, I think I say it daily – usually cheerfully, sometimes ironically.

There are many trivial things I could moan about, mostly petty and not worth mentioning.  But today I’ve had it.  Some things are not acceptable, this does not deserve a positive “but we’re in Rome!” post script.

I’m ranting about water.  I just took yet another icy shower in the winter time in my cold tile apartment.  It turns out that hundred year old corroded plumbing, the sixth floor, and a tankless heater are not compatible.

When we first moved into our apartment, the building engineer showed us the mechanics of everything.  Where the gas lever is, where to the utility box is located, and most notably he showed us where our extra water pump is located.  With pride he demonstrated turning on the extra switch and showed us the shiny new pump located next to the water tank.  “How thoughtful,” we thought, extra water pressure is always nice.  We would have never considered it to be an issue, but they took care of it for us.

I couldn’t imagine life without that little pump, it would probably involve sponge baths.

Back home and in most places, when you want to take a shower or bath, you turn the shower faucet to the left, and wait for the water to heat up, then you enter and go about your business.  Here the process is not so simple.  To attempt warm water follow these steps:

  1.  Turn on the sink faucet all the way to the left and wait for hot water.
  2. If only a trickle is coming out, flush the toilet to increase pressure.  Repeat until you see results in faucet flow.
  3. If the water still isn’t hot, go ahead and turn on the shower, sometimes you can stop here.
  4. If steps 1-3 do not work, leave all water running, and go to the guest bathroom and turn on that faucet.
  5. Turn pump on and off to be sure it is working.
  6. If hot water has not activated after five minutes, turn bidet all the way on hot.
  7. If water is still cold turn everything off, wait 15 minutes and repeat process.  If water is now hot leave all faucets on, if anything is turned off the water will get cold again, and get into the shower immediately, you don’t know how long your window will last.

(Note that none of these steps will work at 8am, 11am, 3pm, 5pm, and 11pm – due to peak use and to the restaurant hogging the water pressure downstairs.)

The main problem is the low water pressure paired with a tankless water heater.  Tankless heaters require a certain level of pressure to work, thus our problem.

There are four types of showers you can have in our apartment:

The Italian Jumping Bean – A shower that can both scald you and give you goose bumps within thirty seconds.  This type of shower has no medium setting no matter how hot or cold you make the setting, just alternating hot and cold.  This shower involves frequent jumping in and out of the spray, thus the name, and is our most frequent shower type.

The Bait & Switch – This shower begins like any other shower, and then loses all water pressure and becomes a winter blast, usually while you still have shampoo in your hair.  You have two choices during this type of shower – you can either endure it, or get out of the shower dripping and repeat steps 1-7.

The Hotel – Back home, this is just a standard shower.  The water pressure is consistent, and the temperature is easy control and constant.  We call it the hotel because it’s where we’re most likely to experience it, but it has happened on a few sacred occasions in this place.

The F*** It – You’ve tried everything, usually repeatedly, but the day must go on so – f*** it – you take a cold shower from a trickling water head.  This one is named after the word that is repeated both out loud and internally during this shower.

Yes, we’ve had plumbers over.  After we demonstrate what we have to go through and observe a half hearted examination, we got a shrug, and a pronouncement that “you’re on the top floor, water pressure isn’t good, it works enough.”

Which leads me to now, with blue fingernails after my F*** It.  I dedicated most of my day to battling the water pressure, canceled plans and pathetically sat around in my robe trying different combinations to coax out some warm water and ready to jump in if it made an appearance.  I thought I had the leg up when it occurred to me to turn on the both bidet heaters.  I was wrong, so I stopped fighting it.

…but at least we’re in Rome.  See, I said it anyway.