January 31, 2006

Japan at night or Wide awake in Morioka

For those of you who don't live in Japan, and many of you don't, I'd like to share some information that is generally unavailable to the uninitiated.

Japan. A technological giant, a country that conjures up images of huge multinational businesses, hi-tech gadgets and cutting edge electronics. A land where people have robotic dogs and cats for pets and who, in the near future, will also have robot receptionists as well.

A place where your car or an elevator will talk to you in dulcet tones of salutation and make sure that you arrive at your destination on time and without mishap. Among all of these wonders is a product that often baffles newcomers and frustrates old timers like myself - The space heater.
The idea of central heating is still just that, an idea.
In most Japanese homes and apartments. One must procure a number of heaters (depending on how many rooms you want to warm) to prevent the onset of frostbite while watching TV or working at home. On it's own the heater poses no threat or problem. Actually they are quite efficient and can heat an 8~12 mat room fairly quickly.

The problem lies in the peripherals or accoutrement's that go along with it. The stoves burn kerosene which is stored in 18-liter Jerry cans stored on the balcony or if your apt. doesn't have a linade, by the front door.
My heater always runs out of fuel at the most inopportune moments and last night was no different. It was about 11:30 and I was relaxing with a glass of fine bourbon and a B-movie while Crispy, my wife, was working on the computer when the stove rang out with a sing song chime to let us know that it's hungry and will soon go on strike if not fed immediately. No problem we've done this hundreds of times before.
1. Remove tank from heater.
2. Open up the balcony door thereby letting in a blast of arctic air that reduces the temperature in the room to single digits.
3. Connect fuel tank to Jerry can and wait for refueling to be completed. We have a nifty little pump that shuts off automatically so we don't actually have to keep the door open the whole time.
4. Replace cap on tank and replace tank in heater, voila!

At some point during the fourth stage of the operation Murphy struck! Somehow the cap wasn't hooked up properly and since on our model the cap and carry handle are one unit, the fuel tank disengaged itself from the handle dropping to the living room floor and proceeded to spill it's contents all over the living room floor and rug. Needless to say, my tranquil repose was replaced with panic! Moving with the speed and alacrity of Greenpeace volunteers attacking an off-shore oil spill, Crispy and I grabbed everything in sight to combat the insidious hydrocarbon threat. Paper towels, dish detergent and rags were enlisted into the battle. for the next half hour or so there was a flurry of activity in the apartment that resembled the mad dash and scramble of bargain day at the local department store. Leonine, our cat, watched the events with sanguine composure from her perch on the back of our sofa occasionally chirping in with instructions on how to best handle the situation or to let us know about a spot we might have missed.
The odor of fossil fuel will grace our home for the next few days which I'm sure will remind us that if we are ever low on energy and need to perk ourselves up at the midnight hour all we have to do is spill a bit of heating oil on the floor and the adrenalin will kick right in.

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