Last time we talked, I had just found a leak in the bathroom and cat barf on the couch. That afternoon, the air conditioning stopped working.

I called a place and left a message, and after 24 hours of misery I still hadn’t heard back from them, so then I called a second place. They said oooh, unfortunately they didn’t have any regular appointments until next week: I could either wait 8 days and pay the regular appointment price, or I could pay over twice as much and get an overtime appointment for that afternoon/evening. Reader, I paused for about 4 seconds and then I booked it for that afternoon/evening. Then I felt like a dumb spoiled princess all day because, what, I can’t go a single week without AIR CONDITIONING? It’s worth THAT MUCH extra money not to have to be a little too WARM for a few days? Was I not remembering we have FIVE CHILDREN to help through college?? But then it got to 93 muggy degrees in the house and I was holding a dishtowel-wrapped ice pack to my neck and feeling so glad I’d booked the expensive appointment. It reminded me of the time I didn’t buy a seat on the plane for my baby because it seemed so spoiled to get him a seat when he could ride on my lap for free, but afterwards I was thinking it would have been worth TWICE the price to get him his own seat.

The a/c guy arrived around 4:30 and Paul went outside with him to stand near him in a manly way and speak of tools and motors, and about ten minutes later Paul came inside and said, “Go ahead and turn the a/c on,” and I did, and cold air started coming into the house. And then Paul said, “Oh, and he said it was a quick fix and not very long after 4:00, so he just charged us for a regular appointment.”

SO HAPPY. SO, SO HAPPY. The a/c was back on, AND we got it that day instead of 8 days later, AND we paid the same price as if I’d martyred it for 8 days?? Right away I wanted to tell you about it: I do so much complaining, and so when a good thing happens I want to make sure that gets into the playlist. But I couldn’t think of a way to tell the story without also telling you I was someone who would pay more than double to get the air-conditioning fixed sooner.

It is one of those very unpleasant tangles where if I act as if it’s no big deal and you are in the financial situation where you would not be ABLE to make the decision to pay double, or able to have a/c at all, then it’s like I’m saying “Oh, I’m so BAD but I just HAD to have that diamond! I mean, I feel guilty about it when other people don’t have enough food or whatever, but you’ve got to TREAT yourself sometimes!” We were in a pretty grim financial place when I read a blog post saying how gross it was that so many people didn’t bother to get pedicures in the summer, and I remember the nauseating, incredulous indignation I felt on encountering that level of careless, scornful obliviousness. But if on the other hand I make a big deal about spending the money and feeling bad about it, and if you would absolutely have spent the money too, then it’s like I’m criticizing your spending and saying you should feel bad about it too.

Money and the spending of it can be tricky to talk about. But here it is two days later and I still wanted to tell you the happy thing about getting a same-day overtime appointment for regular price, so I am telling you and trusting that we all know about how money/spending can be tricky to talk about.

40 thoughts on “Air-Conditioning

  1. Libby

    Air conditioning is a priority for me, so I made a decision long ago that when it comes down to it, I am willing to give up other things to keep cool, if necessary. When I am hot, I am miserable, and can do nothing else except think about how hot and miserable I am. There’s no way I could live a week in this heat. For me, keeping cool is worth whatever it costs!

  2. Celeste

    I never heard anyone use martyr as a verb before, but I like it! I’m glad you have sweet, sweet AC again.

    And yes, money talk is tricky. We often don’t feel like we can talk about it if we’re doing poorly, so it’s easy for people to say the things that make it worse. There was a time in the daycare years where we had to not only do without extras, but scrounge to make the checks not bounce. It was super hard to hear of people who couldn’t decide which vacation to take first or to be looking for better tax shelters. But of course you don’t want to out yourself, and on it goes.

    I feel sensitive to the issue after having gone through infertility. I only got to have one child, but so many never got to have any. My child is a pretty easy child and is excelling in many ways. I feel like it would be so easy to be thought obnoxious telling about her, so I really temper it online. It’s a fact that some of the people in my feed are dealing with many kinds of kid problems that I don’t have, and I worry that I could make a bad day worse. I once read somewhere that “a Jewish mother never kisses her child in public” for this reason. Who knows how true this is, but I think it’s a good tip to remember to consider others’ feelings. I have a few people who I can trade brags with in private, and it turns out that’s all I need.

  3. shin ae

    Air conditioning woes are part of our lives here in the hot, muggy Mid-Atlantic, and I sympathize. Also, you’re right: money and the spending of it is tricky to discuss. That fact makes me keep so many things to myself. Sometimes I feel all bottled up.

    I’m glad you told this story and that something good happened!

  4. Madeleine

    This pairs well with the article you tweeted about PTAs. Money: It’s Complicated Week at Swistle HQ.

      1. dayman

        I knew which article she had to have tweeted before I even went and checked. That article made me so, so, so angry. These problems don’t exist at my kids’ school, where we are largely all within the same socioeconomic group (and in a position that, I’m only guessing, makes us sympathetic to those struggling a bit more.) is this really a prevalent problem? It makes me dislike people I’ve never met quite a bit.

  5. MomQueenBee

    When the Boys were all little ones, a friend offered to help me landscape the scraggly, overgrown, weed-infested flower bed in front of the house. When I asked her how much the bedding plants would cost she said “Oh, practically nothing. Maybe $100.” I didn’t laugh, but I only because my mind was too busy calculating how many pairs of little shoes, gallons of milk, or jars of peanut butter I could get for that $100. Today $100 would be an inconsequential blip in the budget, but I never forget that feeling of how consequential money can be. Air conditioning, though, I would always have paid for. Always.

  6. a/k/a Nadine

    My a/c woes are not as extreme as yours, but still irksome to me. Last weekend it only reached 82 sticky degrees inside the house. I have a giant and exceedingly heavy window unit currently residing in the basement because I am completely and utterly unable to lift it, let alone carry it up 3 (short) flights of stairs (and through a baby gate) to install it in the window. And I do not have a single person in my life that I can ask to do this task, so I’m guessing it will be a long, hot summer. Unless I get desperate and start flagging down cars in the road…

    1. Julia

      where are you. certainly one of us knows someone who could help. or call your local high school/boys & girls club. I’m sweating for you!

    2. Chris

      Join the site and someone in your neighborhood will SURELY come over for $20 or FREE to do this for you!

  7. Tessie

    If there is ANYTHING that describes me, it’s that I am the kind of person who pays for the same day appointment. I tend to stew on and deeply resent home repair issues, so the ability to move on alone seems worth it to me. Also, a happy story about an honest home repair person is always welcome.

  8. Shawna

    I love the heat (send some my way! we’ve had a disgustingly cool, wet spring, which appears to be turning into a disgustingly cool, wet summer) so I can live without A/C, but I can’t live with my husband without A/C.

    And I remember when I was young, single, and unemployed a friend referred to something as “only $50”, and I told him, “$50 is food for a week for me.” It gave him a new perspective for sure.

    Have a ever mentioned my pickle theory in these comments before? I’m going to repeat myself if so…

    I have noticed that I can tell how rich I feel based on the sweet pickle option I buy for my sandwiches. If I’m feeling desperately poor, it’s cheap relish. When I’m feeling a bit more financially secure, I’ll buy whole pickles and slice them. When I’m feeling comfortable, I buy large jars of those “coin shaped” slices. When I’m feeling flush and devil-may care, it’s the full, pre-sliced-lengthwise sandwich pickles. I’m not sure I’ll ever feel rich enough to buy sweet gherkins – those things are crazy!

  9. Shannon

    A month ago, before my wedding and after a lot of saving-up, I was the kind of person in a position to spend previously unthinkable amounts of money on tiny little passed plates of ahi tuna wontons. In the weeks after my wedding, I am the kind of person who digs quarters out of the bottom of my bag to pay for coffee, rather than risk yet another overdraft on my checking account. (Hint: Not a coincidence!) Probably it’s because I have the privilege of knowing I’ll land back in the middle within a few paychecks, but neither before nor since my wedding have I considered it my business how other people prioritize the spending of their own money on the things they want for their own homes and to satisfy their own needs and desires! Though I am always glad to be reminded of how big the range is.

    I would really hope that anyone who, like me, salivates every time there is an update to certain blogs, like Swistle’s, knows how to set themselves aside enough to appreciate a story like this one, because it is so great.

    For what it’s worth, I would have waited the 8 days on air conditioning, and spent the money on frozen daiquiris instead. To each his own!

    1. Shannon

      This sounds terrible. What I mean is that I decided to save up and have a wedding that I thought my husband and I would remember, with a few fancy extras; and while we’ll recover from it over the next few weeks, this immediate post-wedding period is a financially dark one for me! Not my first dark time (in school I lived like every other broke student, and I’ve held two jobs for six years just to make sure I have enough for fun stuff after my student loans are paid each month), and surely not the last either. But I do realize that it’s pretty easy for me to say “No one should read someone else’s blog and judge that someone’s spending”!

      1. Shannon

        Gah!! Not like “every other broke student”–like the ones who, like me, were lucky enough to have some scholarship money and a parental safety net should things go awry. Which is surely not every student or even close.

        Swistle, I am beginning to see your point. :)

    2. Elsk

      I do salivate every time there is a blog update! I saw that there was a new post earlier today, but I had such a busy day I didn’t get to it. Now I’ve just gotten into my quiet house where everyone is asleep, I poured myself a big glass of iced water, and felt so happy that I had saved myself this treat of a post to read.

  10. Becky

    One of the things that I think actually makes having these money discussions easier is when people just put it out there that they know it’s awkward, and they aren’t trying to point out how much they have, or criticize anyone else, or anything. The way you handled it, although I’m sure you felt was awkward, was actually really great. And it’s one of the reasons I’ve been reading your blog for this long. So thank you!

    1. Cara

      Yes! I was thinking that just acknowledging “listen, I know this isn’t the same for everybody; this is just what it felt like for me and my budget at this particular moment in time” took away a lot of the temptation to compare. And – unlike the pedicure post referenced – there wasn’t a thing in this post about what someone else should or shouldn’t be doing.

  11. Elizabeth

    Swistle: you are very skilled at this kind of conversation. Please don’t ever stop blogging!

  12. Gigi

    I would have paid for the same day appointment too. And my husband would have probably paid triple for it, just because he wouldn’t want to be stuck in a hot house with me!

    These types of conversations are tricky and, as usual, you handled it beautifully. So glad you’ve got the ac back on.

  13. G

    I live in the Deep South. I would have paid for the same day appointment, too. Even if I then had to feed the children ramen noodles for the rest of the month. The same day appointment could have cost the soul of my first born child and I would have paid it. Every time people talk about air conditioning, I flash back to a childhood memory. Watching TV with my parents, a commercial for a car mentioned A/C as an “optional upgrade”; in all seriousness, I asked my mother how anyone could possibly consider air conditioning in your car as “optional” and she had to explain climate differences to me.

  14. Sarah!

    I love when appliance/utility appointments go well, because they are often so frustrating! I also like reading other people’s money-related stories of every level of frugality/affluence- I’m a huge fan of the Personal Finance board on reddit even though I am neither scrounging to not become homeless nor trying to figure out what to do with a massive inheritance. It helps keep things in perspective.

  15. Sarahd

    The part of the story that I heard loudest was how you got a SWEET deal! And we can ALL get behind celebrating that:). Part of having a social conscience is guilt. Part of having enough money to get by when so many others don’t is guilt. Part of sharing things on the internet that others from all walks of life can read and respond to is, unfortunately, guilt, it seems. Those are all sad facts that we all have to live with and they are issues whether or not you get a kick-ass deal AND your fabulous cold air back or not. So I say YAY!

  16. Chris

    Thank you for your thoughtfulness! In our friend circle, three couples of the four of us were all given money to pay for college, given living expense funds, given hand-me-down cars from parents, lots of support and on and on. They go on vacations when they please and two of the now-Moms stay home with their kiddos. My husband and I didn’t have those kinds of parents (and he’s a teacher) so we both work full-time, struggle to pay our student loans, have car payments, pay for daycare, etc.

    Those little comments like the pedicure one get made, and it gets hard sometimes to smile and nod!! Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for addressing it in such a great way. And I’m so glad your AC is fixed!!!

  17. Matti

    Money talk IS tricky! I also read the article you tweeted and it made me physically distressed. I grew up lower middle class/maybe upper lower class? It’s hard for me to honestly gauge at this point because just the feeling of MAYBE there won’t BE enough money?! Well, that’s one you don’t forget easily. Maybe not ever.
    That said? I would also have paid for the same day appt. With three little kids, bedtime in the hot and sticky months is a nightmare without it. 8 bed times in a row? NOPE.
    Also, that guy gets to make overtime money, and b/c your appt was so short he probably gets to do an additional call that he might not otherwise have had time for. And make even more money for himself.

  18. Carla Hinkle

    Most households can do at least some prioritizing of budget items…it’s none of my business what you make a priority in your house!

    Of course I would hope most people would be self-aware and not-obnoxious and say things like “Oh, I can’t stand it when people won’t spend money on X!” That’s making OTHER people’s spending YOUR business, which, no. It’s none of my business what other people DON’T spend money on, just as much as it’s none of my business what other people DO spend money on.

    And trying to be self-aware that MY household can make a particular spending choice, but not everyone can (dinner out/appliance repair/vacation/house cleaner/private school/help with college/WHATEVER) is a good thing for everyone.

  19. Kathy

    I live in Alaska so, while I can’t exactly relate to the necessity of a/c in the summer (we get by with fans and ice cream and so on) I can say confidently that I would willingly pay double to have my heat fixed in the winter! Seems a very reasonable thing to do. And you got a deal on top of it! Double win!

  20. Ali

    What a great read and point to ponder! :) Several years ago, I was extremely pregnant (maybe 37 weeks?) with a huge baby and my car A/C went out despite record hot temps here in the South. (One day I recall the heat index was well over 110.) I paid an OBSCENE (to me, anyway) amount of money to get it fixed asap (maybe $500ish? I can’t recall other than it was $$ to me) because the thought of driving in that heat with no air was just beyond miserable. Glad I was able to do it! That doesn’t stop me from questioning others’ spending habits, though, which is a pretty rotten thing so maybe I just need to think of this to put it all in perspective.

    (Actually, to refine my judginess, most of my judgment comes from when people try to justify insane spending for some external reason rather than “I wanted it.” I wanted my AC fixed, plan and simple and didn’t try to spin it as something that would benefit someone else. But still, maybe I should just be less judgmental. :) )

  21. Jessemy

    I know that feeling of obsession when it hits 90s and you don’t have air. In my case, it manifests as bursts of strength that allows me to lug three units up a couple flight of stairs and wiggle them (precariously, it always seems) into our old windows. I just can’t think straight until it’s a little cooler. One of these days I’ll injure my back and regret it.

  22. Me

    Oh! Yes, so very tricky! This reminds me of your “startling expenses” post years ago. At the time you posted it, we were really scrimping to get by. My husband worked at a small school and took on coaching jobs so we could afford the summer utilities in the Southwest. We spent lots of time at the library or doing purchase-less browsing sessions in cool shops so that we could mostly just run the AC at bedtime (and we would’ve paid double for the AC guy to come! I think that may be one of our own startling expenses ha ha!). We had irrigation rights and worked hard to put in a lawn so that our home was a nice place to stay since we couldn’t afford to take trips. We were visiting friends one night and had just finished looking at all their photos from their recent trip to Italy and they were talking about what they’d do differently the next time they go and that they’d be doing a big Mediterranean trip the following year, but had a few other trips planned in between. It was a fun daydream for us and we talked all about where we’d each go if money wasn’t an issue. Then the wife and I were talking about our kids and I don’t remember how our grass came up, but she sighed and said she wished they could afford to have a lawn for the kids to play in like ours. ?? They owned their own business, which coincidentally was a heating and cooling company! :)

  23. Alexicographer

    This post is brilliant. For the record, I, too would have paid for the quick service, unflinchingly, mostly because I am entirely clear that the divorce proceedings my husband would have initiated had I not been willing to do so would have proven far more costly than any service call.

    Also for the record, my 5th (OK, technically 6th, since, you know, I was alive from the age of 0-9) decade is fast approaching and I have never, not once in my life had a manicure or pedicure. I was pretty much flabbergasted at some point to discover that there exist circles in which they are considered de rigueur because — what?! You want me to spend my time and money to — wait, what?! And also for the record, this is not at all because I have the kinds of hands/feet that just look done — I really cannot begin to state succinctly how far from the truth that case would be. So … yeah. For whatever it’s worth, I am as horrified to learn that some consider them “essential basic good grooming” as others (it seems) are to learn that there exist people who willingly eschew them. Sorry — not directly related to your post, but I just needed to get that off my chest, apparently.

  24. Erin

    Real truth. This is why I love you Swistle! Seriously, in a world of competitive bragging (a la Facebook, 99.9% of mom blogs, etc.), your blog is such a refreshing place of realness. So refreshing!

  25. Meredith

    So, I live in Birmingham, AL, and my in-laws have not had A/C in their house in several years. They don’t want to spend the money to fix it. I admit it– I am a spoiled princess. There is NO WAY I’m going through spring and summer in Alabama without air conditioning. Especially not more than once. It does make my MIL very willing to babysit at our (comfortably conditioned) house.

  26. HKS

    I love this post and am so pleased it worked out. I have similar feelings of hesitation when I try to decide about something like taking a weekend trip to see a concert/play/whatever or even taking a taxi instead of public transportation if I have something heavy to carry.

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