Thursday, July 28, 2011

Last Thursday

Oh, last Thursday.  Just the memory of you makes me want to laugh and cry in the same breath.

The morning dawned hazy, hot and humid.  Typical Maryland summer weather, except on steroids.  I single-handedly roused a baby and two teen boys, fed the boys, made lunches for four teenage boys, then threw everyone into the car to drive a half-hour away to pick up two more boys, then drove a half-hour back again to drop them off at class.

When I got back, I let the baby play on the floor while I enjoyed a working printer, the one that we had been up until 1 am the night before trying to fix, and laughing till we cried because it was so ridiculous.  As I sat at the computer, alternating between finding documents and prying the computer cord from my baby's death grip with my foot (uh, what?) I noticed that it was kinda warm in my house.

Ok, so it's a billion degrees outside.  I get that.  Our townhouse's little heat pump isn't awesome, but it works fine, especially on our main level.  I check the temp, and though the thermostat is set highish, it still seems really warm.  I knock it down a degree or two, then get back to business.

In the midst of this, several stressful things start happening at once.  I have calls about Chinese kids to deal make because I lost a host family for the second half of the week and two boys with no where to go in one day, phone calls and e-mails to answer regarding a possible little dream-come-true, and I'm thinking about making a sandwich.  At this point, it is about 10 am, and geeze louise, it's getting warm.  I get a sinking feeling in my stomach and go to lay the baby down before checking the thermostat again.  I set it to 76, but it's registering a steamy 81.

Not cool.  Not cool at all.

I put my foot over the nearest register and think, "Oh no.  No.  Not today."  The air coming from the vent is warm.

I consult my mom and my friend T, because I can't do anything without consulting someone else wiser than me, call the hubby, then hop on the interweb to find an AC repairman.  I find one with some kind of "5-star rating" and ring them up.  The girl on the phone is sweet and lovely and says she can get someone over in 15 minutes.  I am singing heaven's praises, thinking what a blessing it is that someone can get here so quickly, then I fly upstairs to take the fastest shower I've ever taken and throw on some form of clothing.

Alfredo (no really, that was his name) comes to my door, and I try not to make a joke about carbo-loading before a 5-K Run for Rabies.  (Ok, fine, I thought of that joke later.)  Alfredo putters around my basement, then tinkers with my outdoor unit, then comes in to "run some numbers."  There he stands, in my dining room, looking like the savior of the universe, then announces that he can fix my A/C there and now for only $650.  And he doesn't even think I need to replace the whole thing!

It was like all of the air had been sucked of the room.

"$650?" I stutter.

"Yeah, I mean, if this is what is wrong with it.  But don't worry, if that doesn't fix it, I won't charge you the $650, I'll just charge you for the work and then we'll try something else."

"$650?" I stammer.


" you give me just a second?  I need to call my husband."

I run upstairs and frantically call my husband and mom.  $650 is NOT in the cards for us right now, nor in like the next five years.  I take a few deep breaths and get back to reality.  So, ok, it's hot.  It's only going to get hotter, but what is the worst that can happen?  We all sweat.  We can go to other peoples' houses if we're that miserable.  Heck, we could even buy another window unit until we save up the money.  $650 just seems crazy.

I go back down and tell Alfredo that we need a little time to come up with some funding.

"Oh, well, we take credit card."

"Yeah, I know, but we don't really like to be in debt.  We need to run some numbers.  Could I make an appointment for tomorrow?"

"Well, I don't know if I can come back tomorrow."

"Ok, well, I'm willing to take that risk.  We can just make an appointment for whenever you're free next. What do I owe you for the visit today."


He runs my credit card, then tells me he can be back at 9 the next morning.  Oh, thanks Alfredo.  I thought you were super busy, but I guess not.

Alfredo goes back outside to get his toolbox, and I instantly google the words he used to describe my broken AC and see if I can find a ballpark estimate on cost.  I see him off, check the baby, start cooking a sandwich, and glance around on the computer.  I see that one person claims to have paid $475, and others are commenting that cost was "highway robbery."


I decide to call around for a second opinion.  At this point it is 11:45, and I have to leave to take the kids to the zoo at 12:25.  I am running around the house, grabbing snack and packing the diaper bag, and call another man on the phone.  He tells me he can be at my house by 12 noon and I am full of joy.

In the space of time that has passed, the aforementioned possible dream-come-true situation has been completed, but has also fallen through in a stressful way.  In other words, no dream coming true.  I'm sorely disappointed, but trying desperately to cram my sandwich down my throat and throw diapers and formula in the diaper bag.  My amazing baby is, thankfully, still sleeping.

The new AC guy shows up with his partner.  They are a funny duo, full of energy and sporting beer bellies.  Within minutes, they have identified the problem.  The guy stands in my kitchen and announces he can have it fixed in 10 minutes, for $250.

My jaw drops.

"May I ask, m'am, what the other guy wanted to charge you?"

"Yes.  He said $650..."

"$650!"  A long sting of obscenities echoes through my kitchen.  "$650!  That thief!  Who is this guy!  I'm call the Better Business Bureau!  Who would do that!  I can't believe someone is out there taking advantage of you kids! So help me, if anyone tried to do that to my kid.  Sweetie, we'll have this done for you in just a few.  $650...unreal."

I looked at him like he was Jesus himself.

"Thank you so much," I squeaked out.  "I want to hug you.  Can I hug you?  I have to hug you."

So I hugged him.  In my kitchen.  It was awkward, and totally worth it.

The guys spent the next 10 minutes outside fixing whatever had exploded, all the while muttering to each other about "thieves" and "out of business" and "stupid" and other such terms.  They were genuinely angry that the other guy tried to take advantage of me.  I got the baby, changed her and dressed her, filled my water bottle, paid the men, and was out the door at exactly 12:30, just in time to spend the afternoon at the zoo in the astonishing heat.

There are three morals to this story.  First, it often surprises me that in the moment I can handle so much more stress than I ever think I can.  That morning was literally an explosion of just one thing after another, but you know what?  I survived.  I don't think my shoulders have recovered yet from being wadded in a ball of stress and intensity, but I survived.  I kept my cool and made good decisions and didn't let disappointment get the best of me.

Second is for all of us in the microwave generation.  Friends, we as a generation need to take a collective deep breath.  We tend to be so go, go, go that we don't stop and think all the time about what exactly we're doing before we do it.  I am so glad that I didn't just hand the first guy my credit card, and let me tell you, I was a split second from doing that.  I mean, what do I know about air conditioning units?  The guy was there in front of me, dangling the promise of a cool and comfortable home to walk into after a steamy day outside at the zoo.  I almost grabbed his line, but I stopped and I thought first.  It saved me $400.

Third, if you live in the DC-metro area and you need AC repair, call the awesome guys at Global Comfort.  Yes, Global Comfort.  I know because I just almost fell off my back steps while leaning on my sliding screen door to check the sticker they put on my unit.

Fourth, if you are still reading this, you are awesome.  Honey, (I know you're still reading this because so help me if you aren't...) you still own me a sushi dinner for saving you $400.

Fifth, I know that our little dreams will still come true.  Oh little dreams, I love you so!




  1. I read all the way through! Great story and I love the photo of Sweet Pea! <3 you!

  2. Anonymous10:49 AM

    Aw....That really stinks! So sorry about the drama, but it's all over now! Relax and enjoy your cool house and family of 3. :)
    Sherra Gist

  3. I LOVE this story and I LOVE those A/C guys. SO SO SO glad that it didn't turn out to be a $650 fix. :)

  4. may i ask who tried to charge you 650? so that i know not to use them?
    so glad everything worked out

  5. May i ask who was the first people to come out? did you go back on whatever website and give them a poor rateing so other people can see it too?

    glad everything worked out


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