Today's Topic:
The Air Conditioner
(Part 1 of 2)

There was a wet spot on the carpet. Our granddaughter Avery was the immediate suspect. Only a week before, she had lied to her father about spilling something in their own home.

"I didn't do it!" Avery insisted. But no one believed her.

"That must have been one big cup of water," I declared as Avery brought me yet another load of paper towels.

I noticed that the water had spread to the edge of the carpet, right under the furnace closet where the air conditioning was. Curious, I looked inside to find a dripping pipe.

"Uh," I said to my wife. "I think we owe Avery an apology."

Everyone apologized to Avery except for her sister who thought she deserved it anyway.

Sharron called the homeowners insurance, who in turned called the air conditioner repair people. They operate on a "cable guy" schedule, so they agreed to show up between 9 am on Thursday and the following September.

When the repairman did arrive, he blew out the air conditioner's drainage pipe, leaving a pile of rust where the pipe dumps out at the side of the house. Then, without further testing, he announced that the A/C was fixed and left.

A half hour later, I noticed that the house was getting warmer instead of cooler. The following is a misrepresentation of the conversation between Sharron and myself:


     Me: Hmmn. When an air conditioner is working, aren't things supposed to become cooler instead of hotter?

     Sharron: Yes, my dear, I believe it is. Perhaps you should investigate further.


The actual conversation did not go that way. There was no sense of intellectual detachment—no calm and polite discussion. The language we used was, shall we say, more heated.

I opened up the cabinet to discover that the leak from the pipe had gotten worse.

Sharron called the repairman back.

When he arrived that evening, he seemed angry. He was clearly determined to make us pay for our insolent behavior. He accomplished this goal by declaring that we needed a new evaporator coil installed. It would cost $500 and wasn't covered by the insurance. Reluctantly, we agreed to have it done.

A week and a half later, when the repairmen removed the old coil, I got a good look at it and decided that we had made a good decision. The coil was so covered in rust that it looked like a cinnamon roll.

I was not so pleased, however, with the repairman's level of customer service. Here is a partial list of things that bothered me about it. Sadly, none of these are made up:

I could have lived with all that, except for one thing. After the repair, the air conditioning still wasn't cooling the house. The house was getting hotter. As you will recall from an earlier discussion, this is not, I believe, how an air conditioner should work. I could be wrong, but I get this information from some pretty reliable sources.

When we called the repair company back, I was relieved to find out that the owner of the company was going to come out to take a look at the A/C. What a relief! Now, I could be sure that I was talking to someone who knew what they were doing, and maybe I could express some of my concerns about his repairman's performance. Finally, I thought. Now we're going to get something done.

One solid week of sweltering heat later, the owner arrived with his assistant. He walked to our A/C unit, turned it on, and immediately announced that it was working just like it should.

Maybe he was right. We could have been mistaken. Maybe Sharron and I were undergoing some kind of hitherto unknown spontaneous and simultaneous menopause that made us think the house was hot when, actually, it was cool.

The shop owner and his assistant went out to look at the air conditioning unit on the patio. I went into the computer room for a minute and returned to find that the shop owner had left! He was already out in his truck, revving up the engine. The assistant was standing in the kitchen with his hand under a vent. "Okay!" he announced. "Call us back if you have any problems."

He inched toward the front door. I stopped him. "Uh, exactly what did you guys do?"

They had added Freon and fixed replaced a "run cap." The assistant speculated that this might have been the source of the problem, but he didn't seem too confident.

Why don't they stick around to see if the air conditioner is working? I wondered as they drove off.

After they left, it only took me fifteen minutes to figure out that it wasn't. Or maybe I was having hot flashes again.

Of course, I knew that if we called the air conditioner company back, they'd come right out and fix everything in a jiffy. Skeptical? Maybe you have a right to be. Maybe you noticed that this column is subtitled, "Part 1." Oh, but that's probably just because I have so many good things to say about what happened next, right?

Find out next month in "The Terrible, Awful, Miserable, and Emotionally Exhausting Adventure We had with Incompetent Air Conditioner Repairmen Who have No Integrity (Part 2)."