Summer is officially here.
Or at least, it was officially here a week ago today. But the thing about South Louisiana summers is that not only do they start unreasonably early (all hope for a longer than usual Spring is over by mid-April) but these summers are unreasonably, unbearably, and unrelentingly humid. Your sweat sticks to you like sorghum syrup. The sun becomes an obnoxious, orange oppressor keeping an overly onerous eye on your every move. And the air... that miserable mistress who masquerades as beneficial by providing oxygen... the air, well, it becomes thick and heavy with surrender, like the earth herself is as sweaty and miserable as you are. Everything is #overit.
Today, in the middle of this climate onslaught of suffering, our air conditioning unit decided that it, too, was joining the social media chorus and officially #overit. The thing just decided to up and quit working. It was on strike. It would not blow cool air again until its demands were met. The compressor would not compress, the fan would not fan, air would not... air, I suppose? It was hard to understand the strike slogans, as the HVAC unit is an inanimate object...
But like any good and benevolent employer, I reminded the useless machine that Louisiana was an "employment-at-will" state, and I did not care in the least that it was unionized. (Though, if I am being honest, I was very intrigued at how a singular air conditioner mastered this amazing feat of human-level organization.) I threatened replacement, not just of old parts but of the entire unit. I would hire a non-unionized air conditioner—one who would appreciate the payment of zero dollars a year and a once annual check-up from the cheapest and quickest HVAC repairman (or woman) available!
Unfortunately, for me, the air conditioner had not only mastered socialist political theory but had also become proficient in rhetoric and debate. This did not bode well for me at all, as I had never been in a collective bargaining talk before, nor am I used to arguing with mass produced machines about the pros and cons of capitalism. I was out matched, out played, and out everything-ed.
So, I decided to do what anyone who is outwitted would do: I held firm. I called the machine's bluff and took my work outside to the porch where the weak and meager breeze would at least help me pretend that I was more comfortable there than in a stuffy, old house. The air conditioner did not waiver, however. Its picket line of one grew stronger; its silent though hurtful chorus of air cooling themed slogans grew with each passing minute as it taunted every drop of sweat that trickled down my back past the waistband of my shorts.
After an hour, I peeked around the corner of the house to stare at the collectivist Judas. I had half expected that a scab might have come to cross the picket line, but I remembered that HVACs cannot move of their own volition. I considered going next door and swiping the neighbors HVAC but feared that exposing the scab air conditioner to the communist sympathies of my air conditioner would only cause the union cancer to spread throughout the neighborhood once the strike was over. So, for the good of the hood, I decided to return to the shade of the porch and wait it out.
After three hours, I tried to negotiate again. I decided that perhaps keeping the house at 70 degrees was too high a summer goal for an HVAC unit. I am a reasonable man after all. There is no reason that I should push an air unit past its capabilities. Not only would raising the temp to 75 be easier on the air conditioner, though, but it would also save me money in the long run. Win-win! I thought I had this negotiation in the bag.
But the machine refused to budge. "Check ups by a qualified professional!" It screamed in the heart wrenching silence only sun heated steal can muster. "Licensed and insured!" It quietly spat towards me with resolve.
I counter-offered with a well reviewed "professional" from Craigslist.
It balked, speechlessly.
I counter-counter-offered not to run the air during the Spring and Fall.
It stared at me like a judgmental mute.
Meanwhile, all of Creation had succumbed to the relentless heat. The birds had stopped flying. The frogs had stopped chirping. The cicadas had paused their noisy mating ritual as if the Sun was banging on the wall of their apartment shouting "Shut up! There are kids over here! Have some decency!"
The sun beat hard against my neck. The sweat ran off my brow like a waterfall. The heat smothered me under a blanket of moist stickiness.
I tried to take a deep calming breath, but that was as useful as talking to my air conditioner about libertarian economics.
"Fine," I said. "I'll call the expensive repair guy. I can't afford to replace you right now, and I'm not smart enough to figure out what's wrong by myself. I'll pay the extra money to get him here today. Are you happy now? You call the shots from now on. Whatever you demand I will give you! Just please, start cooling the house again! If not for me, do it for the good of your country. You do not work for me, I work for you!"
And with those exact words, the compressor began to compress again. The fan began to fan again. And the air began to air.
I was speechless.
After standing in my own silence for a few minutes, as disheartened as I was confused, I crawled back inside where a blast of cool air greeted me for the first time since that morning so many hundreds of minutes ago. I slinked back to my work desk, weak and exhausted. I was a broken mess of a man. I had fought a war of philosophical fortitude with a hunk of wires and metal and lost. Life seemed to make little sense. What I thought about myself and the world around me had been forever changed. Time was now divided into Before Air Conditioner Strike and After Air Conditioner Strike, BAC and AAC.
If you had told me just 24 hours prior that I would be on the losing end of a negotiation between myself and a Marxist HVAC unit, I would have slapped you in the face and screamed "Get out of here, you dirty hippy! Go back to whatever hole-in-the-ground liberal arts Commie-college you crawled out from!"
And yet, here I am... crestfallen, cynical, and conquered.
But at least I'm comfortably cool.