Guinness and the Air Conditioner

It’s been hot here in the northeast. One day last week it was 105 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s 735 degrees in dog years… or something. It was hot. Stupid-hot. Not only was it hot, but the humidity here in New Jersey makes it feel like you’re walking through hot Jello all day. Hot sticky Jello with angry people floating in it. Yum

We wanted three things when we bought our house: Central air, a basement, and a fireplace.  We got the fireplace, and the house, location and everything else was perfect so we bought it without the required basement or central air. We then proceeded to sweat the perspiration of the damned for the next fifteen years. OK, so maybe that’s an exaggeration, and we only sweat the perspiration of the darned, but dammit—it was hot!

The house came with two 12,000 BTU window air conditioners that were manufactured before there was public electricity. They came with little gerbils that ran to generate cold air, but I forgot to feed them one day and they scurried away, leaving us in our hot, sweaty house of eternal heat. When the infernal machines did run they were so loud that we couldn’t hear the television, and due to the nature of our house, they didn’t cool the upstairs anyway. Lastly, they each weighed about 690 pounds, and consumed so much—uh—gerbil power, that if we ran them both, the breakers would trip on our gerbil… panel. After Cozy and Daisy died I simply stopped installing them, so they’ve been sitting unused in the garage for the past few years waiting for the gerbils to return.

With great heat comes great responsibility, so a few years back I bought a small window unit for the home office. Actually if I’d been at all responsible I would have put it in the kid’s room, but they’re young and I’m old, so in the office it went. It’s good to be the king, or at least, the guy with the credit cards.

The new unit was fantastic! It was only 5000 BTUs, but it was quiet, had a remote control and even a timer. Best of all, it made the office feel like the inside of an igloo in the Arctic. Or is that the Antarctic? The one with the Eskimos—not the penguins. [Insert sound of furious Googling here] I knew it was the Arctic! Anyway, this little air conditioner was so efficient and so good at pumping out cold air, that if I left the office door open, it would almost cool the entire lower level of our house. It was easily the best investment I’d ever made. Actually the six dollars I spent for the 20 Percocets I bought after shoulder surgery was a pretty good investment too. I had heard that they could make writers prone to mid-paragraph digressions and em dash overuse, so I stopped taking them.

Sure, no one else in the house got to enjoy the cool, dry air, but hey—I was toiling in the office all day and needed to stay comfortable in order to win bread. It was around this time that I started to notice a disturbing development; the kids were spending more time in the office with me while I was in there working. Somehow my fortress of solitude had been infiltrated by a swarm (of two) GADlings. What to do?

The answer was simple. I bought them their own magic cold box. For another hundred bucks, I slapped another air conditioner in their window and the wonders of the great white north were now theirs to enjoy in the comfort of their very own—as in, not my—room. The computers are in the office though, so the swarm remained to consume sweet Internet nectar despite my best efforts of relocation. With the addition of Guinness to our home, I suddenly had a big black lump of a dog to trip over as well. My home office was not very big, and I swear when he stretched out he took up half of the floor. Between the GADling swarm and the walking, barking carpet, the entire room had become less of a sanctuary and more of a burgeoning community center for recovering air conditioning addicts.

One day last week I was home writing in the blissful quiet while the swarm had migrated to the town pool. The town pool was an aggregation point for other local swarms where they could meet to become a super swarm. Since I had words to smith, I had no desire to watch the fascinating interactions of multiple swarms, nor the hot moms that often accompany them.  I did however desire espresso, and since I long ago abandoned the daily ritual of grinding my own freshly roasted beans, that meant a trip to Starbucks. Starbucks isn’t the best coffee in the world, but the espresso is at least consistent. Consistently made shots coupled with my not having to setup, tear down or clean my elaborate hand-pump Pavnoi espresso machine made Starbucks the obvious choice. Guinness however, disagreed.

On this day it was 103 degrees and the humidity was 90%. Now I know that I’m prone to hyperbole. Heck, I just like saying hyperbole. I assure you though, that on this day, it was too hot for exaggeration.  The hot was on, the Jello was cooking, and the angry people were a-floating. It was brutal.

As I got ready to go to Starbucks, I stood up and turned off the air conditioner. At this point, Guinness looked up at me with his best Oh Daddy—why? face. It’s the same face he gives me when he’s laying outside in the rain and I want him to come in. The big brown eyes, the sad expression, it was all there but the rain.

There are some who say that dogs don’t feel emotion. In my opinion, these people are idiots. Not only did Guinness feel happier laying in the cool office, he was sad when I turned the air conditioner off. Anthropomorphism? I don’t think so. Guinness was sad because he knew that turning off the magic cold box meant the return of the heat. For someone with a natural body temperature of almost 102 degrees Fahrenheit, a permanent fur coat and few useful sweat glands, turning off the air conditioner was indeed cause for sadness.

The big lug managed to make me feel awful with one quick glance. If you’re wondering why I didn’t just leave the air conditioner on, that’s where Annie comes into play. I can’t leave the office door open when I’m out because it is filled with prized possessions and tasty wooden snacks like vintage guitars and heirloom chess sets. When the dogs are unsupervised, the office stays closed. Guinness knew the drill and as I got up to leave, he slowly got up, huffed his displeasure and padded back into the family room where he could spread out on the cool tile floor. Annie, younger and smaller, seemed less bothered by the heat and just waited patiently for me to leave so she could ravage the garbage.

I had stuff to do. I had writing to get done, espresso to drink, and actual work to complete, but I couldn’t get Guinness’s big sad brown eyes out of my mind. The big guy was hot, and I had left him to smolder. Not cool.

After I got my espresso, I put off all my other plans and drove to Lowes. They had no air conditioners smaller than my car. I drove over to Home Depot where they had none of the 5000 BTU units, but two of the 8000 BTU boxes. Sure they cost a little more, but I would have paid anything to get the image of big sad Newfie eyes out of my head. There was no way I was going to get anything done until my boy was cool.

Debit card dented, I drove the box home. As usual, no one greeted me at the door. I wasn’t gone long enough for my return to be considered an event. I opened up the air conditioner, read the ridiculous  instructions, and installed it into the utility room. The act of carrying the 40 pound unit 20 feet had me dripping with sweat, which again made me think of poor hot Guinness. At least I could sweat!

I got it all wired up, plugged it in and waited a few minutes. Satisfied that it wouldn’t explode, catch fire or drip condensation into the house, I left it on and went back out to Starbucks so I could write in peace, the big brown eyes finally gone from my tortured conscience.

Four hours later I came home to find the family room so cold that I could almost see my breath. I looked into the family room for Guinness but couldn’t find him. That was worrisome, for he would never leave the cool tile on such a hot day. The only room that was colder was the utility room where the new air conditioner had been pouring frigid air into the house. As I looked into the utility room, I saw Guinness laying on the floor, crammed in front of the washer and dryer. He had figured out that this was the coldest spot in the house and it didn’t matter how big the room was. He was in his air conditioned den and life was good. When I called his name, his huge tail thumped as he looked up at me. Guinness understood what had happened. He knew that I had delivered the cold air just for him. How can I be so sure? He was smiling. So help me, he was smiling.

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