You might think that summer officially ended on Labor Day, but this year it actually ended a couple weeks earlier than that. The exact moment when we passed from summer into fall this year was Saturday, August 20, at 3:45 pm. I can tell by looking at my credit card statement. That’s the precise time that my wife Kara and I finally broke down and purchased an air conditioner, summoning Arctic air masses and tilting the Earth on its axis.
Some people will tell you that a butterfly flapping its wings can cause just enough change in the atmosphere to make a hurricane happen, especially if the butterfly is a metaphor for the oceanic currents and air masses that actually cause hurricanes. I don’t know whether there’s anything to the butterfly theory or not, but I became a little more convinced about it when the wind current that resulted from swiping my credit card at the cash register caused the temperature outside to immediately drop twenty degrees.
Kara and I had sweated through the entire summer without an air conditioner, but finally decided that we couldn’t stand the heat; it was time to get some artificially cooled air in the kitchen. We realized that because it was so late in the summer, what we were doing was the equivalent of hopping a ride in a golf cart for the last mile of a marathon, but the weld-the-quarters-together-in-your-pocket temperatures of this summer finally got the best of us.
I remember waking up on that fateful morning, wiping the sweat out of my eyes, peeling myself off the sheets and looking down at the floor, where our ferret was looking up at me as if to say, “Dude, get an air conditioner, you big jerk.” The crew cut I had given him a few days earlier with my electric shaver hadn’t cooled him off as much as I’d hoped. I only mention that here because I wanted you to know that I cut our ferret’s hair with my shaver, in case you ever overhear me talking about “shaving the ferret.” It’s not some kind of weird euphemism. I mean it literally.
Anyway, Kara and I spent the better part of that Saturday orbiting around Walmart, trying desperately to break free from its gravitational pull. We circled around and around, landing briefly in Sears, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Target and, for some reason, Victoria’s Secret. Kara tricked me into going in there, saying she’d only be a minute. Then she gave me her purse and locked herself in the changing room, leaving me to awkwardly search for a socially acceptable pastime for a purse-toting male in a lingerie store; I settled on studying a particularly fascinating empty clothes hanger. I don’t know what Kara does in the changing room, but from the length of her visits, I’m going to guess the Sunday crossword puzzle.
Through all the stores we tried, the only air conditioner we found was a single wall unit in a duct-taped box that had been kicked under a shelf. The box looked like it had been rescued at the last moment from two packs of angry hyenas that had been fighting over it. So we ended up at Walmart, a store that we try our best to avoid, partly because it’s always crowded, and partly because it just seems so evil.
It might be true that the good die young, but it’s also true that the evil have superior inventory management; Walmart had about 30 air conditioners for us to choose from, with a wide range of BTU (Bring Thermal Underwear) output. We brought home a little portable unit that sits in the middle of the room and shoots its exhaust out the window through a duct. I named the unit R2-D2. R2-D2 even has a remote control.
Now I hold up the remote and say, “R2, cool it.”
“Beep, beep,” R2 responds, and kindly obliges. If only I could teach him to rake leaves.