Second I came out of my bedroom this morning, Serena tells me there’s no hot water and the stove is unusable. I contacted Mr. Lim, the company’s housing coordinator, via WeChat.
He messaged back within 1 minute:
Hi，You need to take the gas card to recharge. There is a recharging machine at the entrance of the gatehouse in 竹柏路Lane 333.
The gas card is on the gas meter
Me: Is it outside gatehouse? Is 333 gatehouse the one for pedestrians, no cars?
Mr. Lim: You can ask the doorman security, just outside the security room.
Soon, I was out wandering in the cold, asking a security guard at the closest gate—pedestrian only—where to go. I ended up across the street.
There, two security guards at our sister complex inserted my gas card into a credit card-like reader/scanner and asked how many RMB I wanted to add. I have no idea how much gas will cost for my apartment, but chose 300RMB (about $47 USD).
Security guards are notoriously difficult to understand since they primarily speak the local language, as opposed to standard Mandarin. At times, it’s all Shanghainese, or perhaps a mix of Shanghainese-Mandarin. Or, it may all be even more localized Lingang language, as this area only became a part of Shanghai within the last 8 years or so.
When a guard asked me about “laojia” (老家), I only heard “jia” and told him I live on the other side of the street. Repeating it, I realized he was asking about my LAO jia—old home/old country.
I proceeded to tell the gentleman I’m from the USA—“Mei Guo” (美国🇺🇸—beautiful country, as translated literally).
Upon returning home, I inserted the credit card-like card into the gas meter beneath the kitchen sink, to the left.
There it is! Immediately,hot water at 52C flowed. The gas stove sprang to life.
Not such a bad system after all, I thought. No calling the gas company. No meter readings. No wasted paper statements. No bull crap. Just lock and load.
If only someone had explained this to me in advance…