The Colonel’s Plan – The Immortal Window Air Conditioner

October 24th, 2018

Dear Daddy –

I won’t lie, I’m not very happy with you right now.

“He’s been in his grave for 18 months,” my mother says. “You’re not going to hear back from him about it now,” my mother says.

And yet, 18 months in your grave, your idiosyncrasies are still coming back to, pardon the expression, bite me in the ass.

It was a list of simple tasks that I set out to accomplish today. No grout, though the pink bathroom still has need for grout, and no tile-mounting, though it still has one bare wall. No building enclosures or fences, or hanging doors. Just cleaning the chicken coop, putting in fresh pine shavings and straw… the chickens are very impressed by straw–damndest thing… making a list of the kinds of things we have in the garage that need storing, putting the drawers in the computer card cabinets into alphabetical order, according to their computer card labels… and getting the old window air conditioner out of the window in the family room.

About the computer card cabinets: we have four of them, if I’m not mistaken. They’re gray steel, with long drawers, about 24″ deep, just big enough to hold a computer card standing on its edge longwise. Once upon a time, before hard drives, floppies, USB flash drives and WiFi, when the Internet was still just a project of DARPA through which they intended to keep the government communicating after a nuclear attack, computer data was kept on punch cards. Those four cabinets probably held less data than the phone sitting next to me as I type, but they were critical. You bought them surplus, and Mother and I immediately used the remaining cards in the drawers to make labels for the front of each drawer, indicating which of your tools we were storing within.

You hated it. You never said you hated it, but you clearly hated it. You hated organization. I think it made you feel controlled. You actually seemed to like keeping your tools in grocery bags and hunting through the randomly filled bags for hours when you needed one. Within months, our row of neatly organized cabinets was walled off by surplus equipment, and no one could get to their contents any more. I only unearthed the cabinets a year ago, whereupon I discovered that, before you walled them off, you had mixed up the contents of the drawers.

Stick it to the man, eh?

But the tool drawers, which I’m now using again (because no one needs computer cards any more, except maybe to make labels for tool drawers) are not why I’m annoyed with you. No, I’m annoyed with you about that air conditioner.

This is a 220-volt model that you installed. The big ones are heavy, and, not wanting to damage the window frame it was sitting in, you built a stand outside to support it. You had done this as long as we had a big window air conditioner, which was from the first summer we lived in this house on through the Summer of 2018, when we finally installed central air conditioning to blow through the ducts you had designed in 1967.

We left the old unit in place for one more summer against the chance that central air would not keep Mother cool enough in her space. Mother went around wrapped in a blanket this summer, so I don’t think that turned out to be an issue. The downstairs of the house stayed at 74 degrees, while the upstairs, which clearly needs better insulation and perhaps powered registers, spiked up to 85 at times.

So last week, I said to Mother, I says, “Let’s take this old air conditioner out of the window. We don’t use it, it’s blocking the light, and there’s a draft around it, even though it’s covered with foam and cardboard.” She agreed.

So today, I put on my list the task of removing that unit and easing it back onto its stand. No big deal, right? Well, not in an ordinary house, where such units are installed by ordinary people. But this is not an ordinary house, you were not an ordinary person, and you never, ever, believed that the design of a consumer appliance was optimal. You always had to modify and improve it somehow.

In this case, you were clearly concerned that, I dunno, a hurricane force wind was going to see that air conditioner, target it, channel all of its power into a tight cone, and rip it out of the window. So you put two long screws through the case of the air conditioner into the frame.

Okay, a little excessive, but reasonable, right?

Wrong. You didn’t screw them into the frame of the window, made of solid wood and possessing structural strength. No, you put them into the metal frame of the storm window, right through a thin tongue of metal onto which the glass or screen panel was meant to rest, tearing holes in it, and interfering with a good seal. Remember I said you were careful to support the unit, so the frame wouldn’t be damaged? So much for that theory. I can only speculate that you did this after despair and beginning dementia caused you to not care about the integrity of the storm window any longer. After all, there would be an air conditioner there forever, right?

But we’re not done here, because here’s the question I still cannot answer: How the #^@& did you get those screws in? The heads are inside the air conditioner! UNDER THE COIL! Unless you completely disassembled the entire unit, there is no way to…

<Sigh>

You disassembled the entire unit, didn’t you? And then you reassembled it with the screws partially inserted, and probably turned the screws into the frame by grabbing their stems with vise grip pliers. You were very patient… about things like that.

I am not very patient about things like that. I used a hacksaw to weaken those screws, and then broke them by rocking the unit back and forth.

I’ll tell you right now, those screws would not have withstood a hurricane force wind. All they would have done, which they did today, was guarantee that the air conditioner could not be removed without damaging the storm window frame.

Oh well. At least it closes. And there are no drafts. And the air conditioner is out.

You can stop laughing now.

Love,

Steven

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