August 17th, 2019

My Great Air Conditioner Ritual

By G. E. Shuman

Our lives are filled with rituals. I’ve come to the conclusion that that’s just the way it is. Some of these rituals are intentional and cherished ones, like holiday traditions and church attendance, although church attendance should mean more than that. Some of our rituals, or oft-repeated happenings that become rituals, are much less lofty things than holidays and church-going. (Look at me. I used the word ‘oft’.) Some, like taking daily medication, making the morning coffee, or even washing the flea-bitten dog are simply parts of our repeated routine, but soon become rituals. I have actually walked from the kitchen, after making that morning coffee, and listened for the sounds of the coffee maker, to be sure I had just made the morning coffee. That’s how ingrained into my routine that ritual has become. Be honest, you have done things like that, too.

One ritual I always perform happens less frequently than coffee-making, but two times as frequently as a holiday. These times are my twice-yearly encounters with our three upstairs window air conditioners. We bought the necessary but bothersome things four or five years ago. My wife pointed to the ones in the store that she thought we should get, and from that moment on they have been my sole responsibility. It’s funny how some things seem to work out that way. Each spring I take those air conditioners, one at a time, out of Andrew’s, Emily’s, and our bedroom closets, and proceed to mount them in their respective bedroom windows. Each fall I reverse the entire process, returning them to their winter resting places on those same closet floors.

Right from day one I have tried to care for those precious little devils. (The air conditioners, not my kids, although I do also care for my kids and almost never refer to them as little devils.) Our units came with remote controls, as does everything but toasters and toilets these days. (I am waiting for those developments.) Every spring I remove each remote from the little zip lock bag I taped to the top of the machine the previous fall, and reinstall the also-bagged batteries. I then prop our tired old wooden windows open, and, after gathering my strength and courage, wrestle each AC into its place, with most of its boxy body hanging precariously, in mid-air, outside of the second floor of our home. I do this quickly, hoping I can screw the window down and into place, before the AC obeys the law of gravity and plunges to its small-appliance doom, embedding itself into our lawn some fifteen feet below. So far, (Knock on old wooden window frame,) I have done this successfully.

Then, in the late-fall, reverse-half of the ritual, I have also, so far, successfully pulled each unit back into the house, and nearly hear each one sigh in relief as I rescue its little metallic body from the precipice. Perhaps, and more likely, the sigh comes from me, although I’m not sure.

The time for this second, routine, and necessary AC event of the year is once again upon me. Sometime within the next few evenings I will climb the stairs, hammer and power screwdriver in hand, and perform my de-air conditioning ritual once more. Please wish me luck. I do hope that none of the boxy little things fall to mechanical demise, although that would make the job one-third easier for me next spring.

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