Rumours, gossips and opinions

This mate had to bring partners in the business because he had the disadvantage of not living in a room close to the bathroom, so he had no plug socket: thus he made a deal with those living in the room next to the toilet to give him a plug socket and current? Well, the current was for free anyway, regardless of what you were using because it was included in the rent but the plug socket was on a different territory so he had to give a quarter of the profit to the people providing electricity! (woman, 25, euro-councillor)

When the water meters appeared we felt really happy because we could finally see who was using those huge quantities of water we all had to pay for.

We used to have endless rows in our association because nobody seemed to understand why we were paying for so much water and each of us was trying to blame somebody else.

I used to believe that the Braşoveanu family, because of their two big dogs, was using more of it than us, the old people, and that is why I said that they should extend their maintenance costs and pay for the animals as well!

Now, with the water meters, things have changed! Yet, in the first month, everybody tightened their belts, at least that?s what I think, because everybody wanted to prove that they had always used very little water and that others were thriftless.

My wife used to heat the cold water in a kettle to do the dishes because cold water was cheaper. Yet, I once saw one of my neighbours, Mr. Petrescu, from the fourth floor, that is the last floor, taking hot water out from the heating pipes with a bucket. That?s how I realised why our calorifiers weren?t too warm and why they provided so little heat.

Of course that I laid a claim to the association and Mr. Petrescu was threatened with a raise of the maintenance costs if he made a bloomer again? but who knows? He may do this during the night as well, because who would play the guardian during midnight?! (man, 72, pensioner)

I remember that around ?97-?98 I couldn?t sleep at night because I desperately wanted a mobile phone and all my night dreams used to revolve around it: how I would receive one or how I would find one down the street. The first mobile phone which appeared in Romania was a brick, a 509 Bosch I guess. But I can say I desperately wanted that brick! Yet, I received a trifle of an Ericsson for my birthday, with only one text line on the screen. But I used to brag about it because nobody had one in my class.

Honestly speaking, it was useless: ?But that?s not the point, the point is that I had it.? I used to call Customer service or ask my mom to call me once in a while from the house phone!

Then after my best friend got a mobile, we used to beep each other because calling would have cost too much!

When around girls, we just wanted to look loaded. I remember that I once received a phone call from somebody? my mom I guess, while pretending to talk on the phone. Then I can say I felt really embarrassed and I think that history would have repeated itself even today if I hadn?t grown up in the mean time or if they hadn?t invented the enclosed minute subscriptions! (man, 24, student)

Another thing which crosses my mind and which has also changed my life, even if I am not sure that for the better, has been the remote control TV set. My son has been living in England for about seven years now and a year after he left he came back home with money and he bought a remote control TV set for me and for my wife. We, being old, didn?t want such a TV set because we had heard that it could cause damages to your eyes, thing which actually happened because ever since we?ve had it, I?ve had surgery done on both eyes because of the cataract.

Yet, our Sirius had broken down and couldn?t be fixed anymore. So, as I was saying, my son brought us a remote control TV set. Well, my wife can?t pronounce this word even today. She calls the remote control the little box with buttons! The truth is we don?t really use it, for fear it should break down.

We didn?t even take it out of the plastic bag, we just keep it like that on the TV set and we only use the buttons from the TV. My wife has recently started to turn on the TV because she would not even touch it before. Now I have stuck two coloured papers on the buttons for her to know what to press to turn it on and how to switch the channels. (man, 72, pensioner)

Before, during ?91, ?92, many businesses have started like that, with videos. They used to bring them from abroad, from everywhere and they used to cost you an eye here. Many, very many people have started their business like that. And they used to cost around 300-500 dollars and around that time the exchange rate for the dollar was 22, 25 lei? I don?t have the old passport anymore. Ah, before, when going to the exchange house, they used to note everything I exchanged on my passport and there was a limit regarding the sum. I know that after the ?90s you were allowed to exchange as much as you wanted, not until 50 dollars as before. And I am telling you this because I also had a few dollars and I was shrilled to have been able to exchange the sum into lei. (woman, 48, lawyer)

Damned capitalists for handing me a lemon big time with their FNI (NIF)1! I sued them dozens of times, waited in longer queues than those during the communist regime, cursed everybody and nothing. Only the big fish got their share and us, the mumpers, swallowed the bait. (woman, 70, pensioner)

After the ?90s one may have had the chance to, on the one hand, get these cars, articles of luxury, and on the other hand, complain about how poor you were and how many things you lacked. The ?90s triggered a very significant gap. That is you get down on the street and you encounter people complaining about their misfortune while wearing ostentatious clothes and driving an Audi. Is it normal? It?s Balkanic, I may say. One cannot tell where we are. Is it in the middle of the road, at the bottom or on the top? (woman, 48, lawyer)

In the past, if women had a condom, a sterilizer, well, that meant going to jail. Or the curettage. Both you and the doctor would go to bat. I was pleasantly surprised and it was also a great relief to discover the contraceptive pills, the tampons, the nappies for mothers. I know because I had a curettage done right after the ?90s. It happened, what could you do about it? Well, I was dead scared but not of the complications. Of the prospect of clapping me by the heels. See, my mind still preserved the idea that you weren?t allowed to have an abortion. After that, it has been a real relief.

This freedom of speaking your mind, of doing anything, have been a greater gain than having more and more money, only that people, unfortunately, take only the material side into account. (woman, 48, lawyer)

Interviews done by Munteanu Petru, Popa Viorela, Raluca Mitroi

Translated by Raluca Vîjîiac

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Martor nr 1/1996
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