If you flit from one air-conditioned space to another, you can forget that, from April through September, South Texas is uninhabitable. I’d managed to forget, until a recent Thursday night when my wife intruded on my Astros stupor and asked, “Is it hot in here to you?”
I reached up to a vent; it was blowing hot. And suddenly, all hope was swept from the universe, because I knew from bitter experience that this could cost me as much as $8,000.
After a long, sleepless night marinating under a languid fan, I located an AC repair company that could send a tech at 10 a.m.
A smiling Bernie (not his real name) arrived right on time and disappeared into the attic. I paced the floor beneath him like an expectant father as I awaited the verdict, pausing only to stare intently at the ceiling each time he moved around or dropped a tool.
After 20 minutes, he reappeared and said everything checked out fine, but he needed to see the condenser unit. We went outside, were immediately attacked by a thousand ravenous mosquitoes, and hastily retreated into the house where Bernie doused himself with repellent. As he bravely stepped back outside, I felt like Katharine Hepburn watching Bogie slide back into the leech infested Zambezi.
Fifteen minutes later, he came back inside and told me he’d tweaked a few things, but the condenser checked out OK. I reached up to a vent; it was blowing cold.
“What did you do?” I asked.
“Nothing, really,” he answered.
That weekend, the conditional condition of my air conditioner loomed over me like a sword of Damocles.
The AC worked until Monday at 8 p.m., when a telltale heartbeat sound began emanating from the attic. Because no air was flowing from the vents, I turned the AC off and the sound stopped.
I called the repair company and a still smiling Bernie showed up a half hour later. I told him about the heartbeat, and he climbed into the attic. After ten minutes, he shouted, “Turn it on!” I did, and it worked fine. As he descended the ladder, I asked what he’d done?
“Nothing, really,” he answered. “Tell me about the sound.”
I told him it went THWUMP every second, just like a heartbeat. He raised an eyebrow and said he’d never heard an AC THWUMP. I called my wife over to testify that she’d heard it, too. He gazed at us for a moment, said it was working fine now, and left. A half hour later: THWUMP, THWUMP.
I hustled up to the attic, made a video of the THWUMP, and texted it to the repair company.
We spent another long, sleepless night sautéing under a sheet.
When I called early the next morning, the office manager happily told me that all the techs had watched my video, were convinced it was the motor, and Bernie would be there at 3 to change it out.
I rushed home by 3, and, just for grins, turned on the AC. Naturally, it ran fine. When Bernie showed up at 3:45, he explained that because my motor was under warranty, he could only replace it if the AC wasn’t working. He waited a while in my rapidly cooling house, but eventually went out to his truck and returned with the bill. Just as I was about to sign it: THWUMP, THWUMP.
He hurried for the attic but stopped when he remembered his tools were in the truck. I told him I’d get his tools and ran to fetch them. After 5 minutes, he climbed down the ladder and announced it was definitely the motor. He changed it out, and I thanked him profusely for his hard work and perseverance.
That night my wife and I were luxuriating in the wonder of conditioned air when at 8:10 p.m.: THWUMP THWUMP.
Despairing, I called the repair company. The office manager practically wept when I told her the heartbeat was back. Forlornly, she said she’d call Larry (not his real name) and hung up. Who’s Larry, I wondered?
An hour passed and no one called. My wife and I agreed that if Bernie had abandoned us, we needed to buy a new system.
Then someone knocked at the door.
“I hate your house,” Bernie said as he stepped inside.
“So do I,” I admitted. “You came back!”
“I couldn’t leave you like this,” he said.
He climbed into the attic and came down a few minutes later holding a tiny electronic box.
“I changed this part out,” he said. “I’m going home”
“You’re not leaving!” I protested. “When you leave, it breaks! We’ll make up a bed for you!”
“No, this time it’s fixed.”
“Alright, but if you see someone running down Rodd Field Road chasing after your truck screaming, ‘It’s THWUMPing again!’ pull over.”
Here’s to my AC that’s been running for two weeks (knock on wood). But most of all, here’s to heroic Bernie and his fellow AC techs who make South Texas somewhat habitable.