Dr Smiter goes to the Dark Side

I have seen the light, and it is green. It indicates that my brand-new air conditioner is On.

For those of you living in another sector of the galaxy, we are now in the middle of a heat wave here in the Big Smoke, along with the rest of central North America. And, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (what-what-what??? Someone administers the atmosphere? More later…) it is also officially the hottest year on record since 1880.

Like many of you, I suspect, for most of my Smiter-y years on this earth I have survived just fine without an air conditioner, thank you very much. I grew up in Southwestern Ontario in a house that (gasp) did not have central air (probably grounds for child abuse charges these days, but I digress…).

One of my biggest fans. Ha.

My parents did at one point buy a very small window unit, but they installed this in their own room and kept the door closed. (I am not making this up. One day I will tell you about the padlocks on the fridge.) On monstrously hot nights, however, they would close the door at the top of the stairs, close the windows in my brother’s bedroom and mine, and open their door, letting the delicious cool air flow out for all to enjoy. (They took it out of our allowance later.)

Aside from that brief encounter with climatological modernity, though, all of the houses and apartments in which I’ve ever lived have been AC-free. Partly this was a matter of funds — when one is a student, for example, one can’t simply go spend the Kraft Dinner money on an appliance that most would consider a luxury.

And partly it’s that my mother, when she wasn’t guarding the family food stash like Cujo, was a bit of a hippie environmentalist before her time. (I can remember, as a very small child, stomping tomato cans flat and piling them in a bag by the door, for later removal to a proto-Blue Bin at the local fire hall… really!) And that means I inherited, I must say thankfully, her attitudes about composting, recycling, turning off lights & appliances, and not wasting things. I think it’s the least we can do, as a species that mostly loves to foul our own nests.

Hey kids, wanna help flatten the juice cans?

Although I draw the line at saving bread tags — my mother was a child of the Depression and that explains some of it. But again, I digress.

So anyway, the burning need to be in constant possession of “all mod cons” and flat-screen this and the latest upgrade of techno-that is simply not part of my current makeup. Nor is the expectation that everything has to be easy, comfortable and effort-free. (Which has made some of you enquire delicately – or not – as to whether I am in fact Amish. For the record, no. I am enough of a klutz and oddball without having to worry about breaking my leg stumbling over a horse trough because my bonnet has fallen over my eyes, thank you.)

At any rate, I get on just fine. My TV was bought in the early 90s and still works like a charm. I have a DVD player, a car with a sunroof & a 6-slot CD player, a very good laptop  (see “not Amish,” above) and a cell phone  — hey, I was first among my friends in ditching a land line completely, so nanny-nanny-boo-boo! (I also have a very hungry Doberman named Clyde who will attack you if you try to rob my home, just in case the above paragraph is at all tempting.)

Forsooth, Sister Smiter hath fallen over her hobnails again...

And up until sometime last week, I was making do as always during the summer months, comfy as you please, with my two electric fans purring away, circulating the air through Casa Smiter as I worked and slept.

But suddenly… the temperature began to creep up. I moved the fans a bit closer to my office chair during the day, and positioned them inches from my prostrate body at night. My home office attire morphed from the usual T-shirt and shorts to… well, never mind.  But let’s just say that no one, and I mean no one, needs to see a Smiter typing in her underpants.

The final straw was when the cat (Growler, pal of Clyde — they run a security company for the Mafia during the day, just so you potential burglars know) … anyway, the cat suddenly wilted like dead lettuce and took to lying prostrate in front of the fan, meowing weakly.

Seriously, dude... just buy the AC.

As I was rubbing her down with an ice pack (I am not making this up… ) I thought, “OK, that’s it. If a tropical animal is having difficulty maintaining vital signs in this heat, then I probably need to pay a visit to the Home Despot and obtain relief, in the form of $200 worth of Cooling Appliance.”

Alas, everyone else in the city apparently had had the same thoughts I had had (although probably not while rubbing down the family pet with “Mr Chilly”) and I had to visit at least three separate hardware purveyors before I finally found a stash of air conditioners, going fast, by the front entrance of a Home Despot in Scarborough. I hesitated only a second, David Suzuki’s voice mingling with my mother’s in my head (making for an odd combination of “Polar bears are dying because of you” and “Touch that brick of cheese and I’ll give you something to cry about!”) before I loaded a nice 6000 BTU baby into my cart and headed for the checkout.

My building superintendent, Nick, was prevailed upon (for the price of a beer, as always in these matters) to assist in unloading the thing from my car and carrying it into my apartment, and I took it from there. Using the time-honoured installation method that consists of 90 minutes of swearing and kicking bits of carton around the house while looking for “Slot A,” my new toy was eventually installed in the living room/home office window and has been purring away efficiently ever since.

The cat has revived, as have I, and my conscience is assuaged ever so slightly by the fact that the unit has an “energy-saver” setting (which I use) and according to one of the inserts, uses slightly less energy than all of Bulgaria over the course of a year.

Now, I just need to figure out a way to get David Suzuki to bugger off from under my window with that vuvuzela. Here Clyde….here boy….

Mmmmm. Environmentalists.

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