When we arrived Sunday afternoon, John greeted his parents, Kevin, and me outside St. Mary’s Seminary, then he jokingly told us that he’d reserved “penitential suites” for us. He had no idea how true that would be, at least for Kevin and me.
Our room was freezing cold when we got there at a little after 8pm Sunday March 9, 2014. We couldn’t get the heat to stay on for more than maybe five minutes, tops. I was sitting in the armchair in our room reading while Kevin lay on the bed listening to music on his MP3 player. I wrapped up in my big white scarf and draped my winter coat over my legs.
Kevin would get up, turn the heat on at the control panel for the heating/cooling unit in our room, then sit back down for a whole two to five minutes before it would cut off, again. I’d have to tell him it had clicked off because he couldn’t hear it with his earbuds in. He’d get back up and try a few of the other buttons, turned the temperature up to 80 then 90 to see if that did anything. Usually the heat would come on for a few more minutes, but that was it.
When he wasn’t fiddling with the thermostat, Kevin tried to set the big radio alarm clock on the nightstand by the bed. Apparently, you could only go forwards to set the time, and for some bizarre reason, it skipped over the eight o’clock hour completely. This prevented Kevin from setting the clock to the correct time, according to his atomic watch, which read 8:17.
A few minutes later Kevin realized, no doubt from his excellent vantage point from the thermostat, that the digital alarm clock had actually gone backwards two minutes. The two of us were laughing so hard we were both doubled over. Every time the heat kicked off, we started a new round of LOL.
At one point, Kevin said: “It feels like it’s getting a bit warmer.”
“No,” I told him. “You just feel a little warmer because you’re up every couple minutes to try and get the heat to work.”
I took the bag with our toiletries into the bathroom and discovered yet another peculiar feature of the penitential suite. The water when on full-force was not coming out enough that I could rinse the soap off of my hands. Our prospects for showering weren’t looking good, but at least there was enough water pressure coming out of the bathtub spigot that I could get the soap off of my hands, and for that I was truly grateful.
There was an ice bucket in our room, so Kevin went to find the ice machine. He returned with an empty bucket, having searched our floor and not found any ice. It was probably just as well since we were already feeling pretty cold.
Kevin propped up the three inch panel blind that had fallen on the floor at such an angle that we didn’t have quite so much light coming in from the parking lot below.
It wasn’t long after that when John texted us to ask if everything was okay with our room and if we wanted him to bring us anything from the lounge.
I texted back: “We’d both like something hot to drink. Can we meet you there? There’s heat in the lounge, right?”
Yes, the lounge had heat and hot tea. John made us each a nice hot cup of Sleepytime tea, and the three of us sat and talked for a bit. One of his seminarian friends overheard us mention about the lack of heat in the room where we were staying and offered us a small space heater he had. He went to get it for us before we went back up to the penitential suite.
Fortunately, we turned on the little portable unit for more than half an hour during which time the Kevin finally figured out how to reset the thermostat. During the half an hour or so that we had both the portable heater and the heat in the room working, it warmed up nicely. We gave the small unit back to John to return to his friend. I consider it a major plus that we didn’t need to keep it on all night since with the luck we were having it probably would have caught on fire or at least set off the smoke alarm and sprinklers.
We insisted John take a look at the water coming out of the bathroom faucet. He was totally baffled by the ridiculous trickle. I was satisfied I’d proved my point. After we talked a little more, John bid us goodnight, telling us to let him know if we weren’t able to take a shower in the morning due to a serious lack of water pressure.
The next day, we met the friar who was staying in the room next to us when we met John for breakfast in the refectory. We asked the gentleman if his room had heat. He said that it had been very cold. We inquired about the water pressure in his bathroom, and he said it was great and that the water came out hot right away.Apparently, they have some adjustments to make in some of the rooms in the Center for Continuing Formation wing of St. Mary’s Seminary and University. Either that or they should let people know that part of their stay will include putting up with a number of standard issue things not working correctly in their rooms. If the latter is indeed the intention, a little support group held at a certain time on each floor might help create community and greater camaraderie. I’m just sayin’