Last week I was in Dallas, and I was complaining about the weather back home (and how it was the same as the weather in Dallas). “Yeah,” said one of the Texans, “We hear you guys have a terrible heat wave in the 90s and we just have to laugh!” Unspoken at the end of that were the pejoratives about our tenderness that no Texas gentleman would use around a lady such as myself.
I countered in a way that terrified and horrified them: “I have no AC in my house.”
They were dumbstruck, as though I’d told them I had no toilet. No air-conditioning? That puts an entirely different spin on 98 degrees with 90% humidity, my friends. Yes, it does.
Thinking about it, and I think I’ve only ever lived in one place that had AC. We lived in California for a while when I was four. My thrifty grandmother, through osmosis, somehow taught me how to manage the heat with as little AC as possible… but we still had AC in Central Valley. (Those tips, by the way, come in awfully handy right now.) Every house I’ve lived in since we took Amtrak north to the Pacific Northwest has been heated, but not air-conditioned.
This summer has been HOT. (Except for Memorial Day when it froze. I might be whining about that for the next year or two, so brace yourselves…) I think we’ve already had 10 days over 90. In my mental calculus, I usually figure that Boston will have 8 – 10 days over 90 all year, and that plenty of those days will be like 91. We actually do have window box AC units (otherwise we can’t sleep), but usually that 10 days a year just doesn’t seem worth installing central air for.
But we’re in day five of a seven day likely heat wave, and tomorrow is supposed to be the worst yet. The basement is hot. The attic is unbearable. It’s only getting down to the mid 70s at night, so the house doesn’t get a chance to cool down. (Oh! The unthought-of consequences to having good insulation! When the house gets hot, it stays hot.) Suddenly, you find yourself wondering whether an AC unit would be that expensive after all.
When I was at a formative age – around 9 – my family watched the Tom Hank’s movie The Money Pit. At the time we were living in a house built with a gorgeous view on a just fantastic plot of land. The house had a great layout. And it was about half-done. The sink in the bathroom wasn’t hooked up. The nursery was exquisite, but other bedrooms were just drywall. In my room, there was a door to what was supposed to be a porch (one assumes) but was actually a story-long fall. Needless to say, my parents were renting.
But the combination of the movie and the house have instilled a life-long terror of home maintenance in me. I lived for six years in terror that at any moment my roof would cave in and I’d have to pay gazillions of dollars to get it fixed. (I think I added about $5k a year to the estimate I was given when we bought the house, but the roof did end up costing a bundle.) When the guy redid our roof he informed us that the window sills, which we had fixed and treated to the tune of $3000 when we moved in, were completely rotted and needed to be replaced. Now I imagine water seeping into my walls and wreaking havoc. And that will be another, what? Six thousand dollars?
And then there are the bats. I had high hopes that my Very Expensive Roof would be batproof. In fact, I counted on it. I looked up at the dollar bills taped to my roof, um, I mean, my new shingles and thought, “At least there are no bats.” Then I spent an afternoon in the attic and heard the squeaky voices of my unwelcome guests. I called up The Bat Guys and attempted to sound non-hysterical in my insistence that they come IMMEDIATELY and RELOCATE THE BATS to MAYBE THE BAT HOUSE I HAD INSTALLED. So that’s another two thousand dollars.
Of course, there’s the porch project too. We’ve gotten the stain. We need to test the stain on a piece of wood before we can decide whether the stool we’ve picked out will be a good match. And then we’ll need to get about four more of the stools in order to go sit in our nice front porch.
And the kitchen floor could stand redoing, as could the hall carpet. And there are bees living under my porch.
All this is to say… it’s too darn hot. And it’s likely to stay too darn hot at Chez Flynn for at least another year.