27 May 2010

calm. cool. collected. (or some like it hot, part II)

While waiting for Tom the Repairman to show up—

But first to recap:  my air conditioner wasn't working, it was 89 degrees in my apartment, my utility room was doubling as a sauna, and I couldn't wait for Tom to get there.  {Another good way to recap is to read this dramatic, perhaps over-dramatic, version of how much I was sweating.}

So I was waiting for Tom, and I was doing my favorite thing to do when slightly agitated.  Or when I have some unexpected free time and I get agitated about how to fill it.  I was cleaning.

I was, more precisely, scrubbing my stove.  I'd had some friends over for dinner the night before; we'd had chicken in puff pastry, asparagus, mashed potatoes, and chocolate souffle.

I'd been so focused on making the chocolate soufflĂ©—Julia Child's souffle—since it was the first time I was making it.  I'd figured, though, that even if it turned out bad, it'd still be chocolate pudding, and while that's not as pretty, it's still chocolate.  Cooking has taught me to release my expectations of the result, a good lesson for outside the kitchen, too—say, at the office.

While I was whipping the egg whites, the potatoes boiled over.  The one thing I'd put on the back burner—literally—was making a mess.  But a little boiling-over potato water doesn't ruin a meal; potatoes are so forgiving like that {hence why I wasn't too focused on them.  Seriously, when you have to whip something to seven times its volume, you aren't thinking about dependable vegetables}.

The mashed potatoes turned out well.  The whole meal turned out well.  The evening felt like the beginning of summer, that first time you sit outside until the sun goes down and you realize it's almost 9pm and you're not too cool and not too hot and the air smells like cut grass and barbecue.

But the stove didn't fare too well, and so the next morning as I waited for Tom, I was scraping crusted potato water off it.

And I was making coffee.
  I read somewhere—probably Real Simple but with a tip like this, it could've been a “How to Be a Perfect Housewife” book from the 1950s—that you should always have just-baked yumminess to offer your repairman.  Not only will your home smell delicious, but you'll be giving him sustenance so he can work harder and longer on your broken whatever.  And he'll think you're really nice.

I had no time to bake, and the leftover chocolate souffle—you know, it doesn't look very appetizing the next day.  You should always eat every last bite of chocolate souffle immediately, even if it means you get sick.  It's worth it, trust me.

Coffee would have to do, and it actually did very nicely.
  When Tom the Repairman showed up, I invited him into the kitchen for a cup of coffee.  As I was pouring it for him, he said two things:

“Look at your fancy little cup and spoon!  A demitasse!  I feel so dainty!”
“Wow, you keep your stove really clean."

I smiled for two reasons:
  • I will always smile when someone gives me a verbal gold star, especially about cleaning.
  • My repairman knows what a demitasse is.  My repairman is a Renaissance man.
After acknowledging how hot it was in my apartment and complimenting my coffee {another gold star!}, Tom opened up my thermostat.

“Well, there’s your problem.  Crossed wires.  See how the white and the blue wire are touching?  That means they’ve created a…what?”

“A circuit???”  I said it so hesitantly that the only way to accurately write that is with three question marks.  I felt like I was back in Mr. Summerson's AP Physics class.  Hello, 1999, how have you been?

“Yes, that’s right,” Tom said as he separated the white and the blue.  I was really racking up the gold stars here.

“And that circuit is telling the burners to fire, even though the system is on AC.”

He went on to explain how with the burners going, the system was pushing 80,000 BTUs through a pipe built to hold 24,000 BTUs and what the increased pressure did—basically kept the freon from doing its job.

It was all fascinating, I have to admit, but in my head it was simplifying to this:  the burners shouldn’t be firing when it’s burning hot outside.

As Tom was putting the cover back on the thermostat, he said, “You put in this programmable thermostat, didn’t you?”

{That ripping sound is all my gold stars being pulled from my chart.}

“You did a pretty good job—just got to watch out for those crossed wires.  Just think of the wires as unsociable people.  They don’t like to be near anyone else.  That’ll be $80.  Make the check payable to the name here.”  He pointed to his hat.

What I Learned from My Broken AC:
  1. Don't get your wires crossed.
  2. Wires are like people who hate other people.
  3. Pay attention in physics.
  4. Always have something delicious to offer your repairman.  Repairperson.  Repairer.  Whatever.
  5. Sometimes, you'll have to pay $80 to find out that you don't know how to do something, such as installing your own programmable thermostat.  Even if you followed all the directions and it had been working for 6 months {during the winter, when of course it doesn’t matter if the white and the blue wires are forming a circuit telling the burners to fire}.

1 comment:

  1. Oooh I never thought to have something delicious waiting for a servicefolk (yikes, I hope that's not offensive)! Good advice.

    But I have to disagree that potatoes are forgiving. Just wait till they trigger an allergic reaction and your skin erupts in hives. It can happen, people.



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