Monday, October 18, 2004

La Poêle et la Bois de foyer

I live in the Plateau. This is the hip french residential neighbourhood a little ways northeast of downtown. I'm told that it once was a lower-middle class place and even a bit down and out in parts, with pawn shops and things like that. It is clearly in the middle (or maybe the end) of a real estate boom. There has been tons of interior renovation and still more going on every day in the blocks around my house. Fortunately, they are not actually tearing the homes down, so the streets, which are beautiful and tree-lined, are keeping their character, even if the insides of the homes are losing theirs.

My housemate (colocataire) is an anglophone from Ontario. A good guy and a good coloc, but I wish he only spoke french. It would be such good practice! He lives in a converted garage in the back. It's quite nice and has a really nice little wood stove (une poêle). He's got electric heat, too, but his insulation isn't that great and he found that he had to keep it cranked all winter. He didn't use the woodstove (he's from Ontario) and seemed a bit reluctant to do so. After some convincing, we fired it up and it works great. There is also a fireplace in the front which I've always wanted and is one of those nice new ones that put out a decent amount of heat. So we split on two cords of wood (two "face" cords, it turns out and now I'm not sure if we got taken, but that's another story) and stacked them up on the back porch.

My coloc had the woodstove going for a couple of days. It's not really that cold yet, but he was drying clothes in his room because the dryer was broken. There was a knock on the door and I answered it. It was our next door neighbor to the south. They are a young couple who just bought the place from the older woman and her three yappy dogs. They did a lot of renovation. They were very friendly when they first moved in, but the guy seemed a bit stand-offish. Anyways, the wife was at our door and asked if she could speak to my colocataire. It was a bit strange, and I was tripping on my french trying to ask her what she wanted. I ended up taking her to the garage where she introduced herself to my coloc who was plastering the hallway.

She asked if he was planning on using his fireplace all winter and if he had another form of heat. It turns out that the smoke was blowing into her upstairs window. The chimney is only 3' high and the garage one story and there is kind of a dead spot so the wind doesn't pick the smoke up. Also, she's pregnant (of which we made a point). We wanted to be accommodating, but we also wanted to run the woodstove. I suggested that we could see if we could get the chimney raised. My roommate said he'd stop using the chimney until then. He did ask her if she'd be keeping the window open in the winter and she said she would. This seems to be either insane or not true because it gets cold here. But the thing that really bothered me was that she really seemed to be thinking we were just going to not use the stove. And then she said, "We don't really need any more air pollution here in the city."

It all ended on a cordial note and she was very polite and apologetic. The landlord (more about him later) came by with the chimney inspectors a couple days later and he's supposed to be coming back in a week or so to put up a higher chimney. It's a bit of a job, actually, because he has to run a supporting cable across to the house. But what annoyed me was my neighbour's appeal to the environment. Chopping down trees and burning them in a stove is definitely bad for the environment, but it's not any worse than the devastation caused by all the dams that create the electric heat that everyone has in their house. But I don't think she really cares about the environment. I think she cares that her new little house in the Plateau have a quaint, hip look and neighbours that are chopping wood and smoking cigarettes on the back porch don't fit in with that image.

I guess what I learned is that even in Quebec there are annoying yuppies.

No comments: