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Texas | Columns | "Quips and Salsa"

Only sweat the small stuff if the A/C is out

by Jase Graves
Jase Graves

Summer tends to hang around in East Texas like a lingering house guest who should have taken the hint when you started freely walking around the living room in your underwear. In fact, our hottest weather often rears its glistening, blistered head right around the time we all start to go pumpkin-spice wackadoodle and break out our fall wardrobe-even though we'll soon be wringing vats of sweat out of our flannel and corduroy.

Speaking of sweat, as an indoor enthusiast, I'm convinced that I could survive the collapse of civilization as long as I have central air conditioning and a king-sized bed with cool, crisp sheets-oh, and Netflix. But a dead A/C unit is another story-and a horror story at that.

One of these tales of terror began on a recent September evening when my family and I returned home at around 10:00PM from a Saturday night gorge at Texas Road House-where I devoured enough of their fresh-baked rolls to send me into acute carbohydrate distress. All I wanted was to take a hot shower, heave myself into bed, and sleep in refrigerated peace. Unfortunately, the evil spirits of aging home appliances had other plans.

When my wife came into the bedroom to give me the devastating news that the A/C wasn't working-I was already in night-night mode and thought I might be having a bad dream. After wiping away a few tears, I quickly sprang into action, which involved grabbing a flashlight and stumbling around outside in my bathrobe to examine the condenser unit-as if I had any inkling what all those wires and mechanical-looking thingies were for. Once I had exhausted my technical expertise by flipping the breaker switch off and on a couple of times, I proceeded to step two in my personal home repair strategy-I called somebody else.

Because of the late hour, my only option was a 24-hour emergency air conditioner repair business, and all the answering service could tell me was that the technicians were on other calls and they would try to get someone out to my house before the finale of next season's "Dancing with the Stars." At that point, I was sticky, uncomfortable, and generally miserable-and I wasn't even camping.

As I stomped around the house grumbling and threatening to move to Arctic Lapland, my wife responded with her usual unnecessarily upbeat "It could be worse."

"You're right!" I said, "We could be camping!"

My wife, three daughters, and at least one extra girl-child who was visiting for a sleepover said they were actually quite comfortable, suggesting that I keep the house too cold, anyway. What they don't understand is that real men like me have hot, macho-variety blood swaggering through our veins, and we require a cool environment in order to sleep and digest baked goods properly.

By this time, it was well after midnight, and there wasn't much left to do but flop back into bed and pray that the house wouldn't catch fire since I would now be forced to lie there under the ceiling fan "commando style" and risk permanently traumatizing our slightly-obese Siamese cat, who begins every bedtime by perching on my upper torso and making me feel like I'm balancing an unplucked Butterball turkey on my man cleavage.

The A/C technician did finally make it to the house at 9:00 the next morning, and for about the price of a plane ticket to Artic Lapland, he determined that I had damaged the main electrical wire leading to the condenser unit with my weed eater-and missed the surrounding weeds entirely. With a roll of electrical tape and a good laugh (from the A/C technician), we were back in the 21st century.

Despite the inconvenience, expense, and ballistic sweating, I realize that a broken A/C unit is, after all, a first-world problem and compared to many crises faced by others, pretty insignificant and not worth whining about. (My wife wrote that last part.) Experiences like this always remind me that with the support of my family, I can face any hardship-as long as it doesn't involve camping.

Jase Graves
"Quips and Salsa" September 24, 2019 column

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