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Friday, August 10, 2012

a post about AC units

This summer has been rough on our love affair with our apartment. Remember our perfect apartment?

When we were deciding to live here, I spent not one second contemplating the fact that it didn't have central air. It just didn't occur to me. It was winter, and this place had beautiful light pouring in from huge windows in every room and offered free radiator heat. Free heat! In Chicago! We were going to save thousands.

And we probably did. From February to May, life here was so comfortable and our monthly bills are a fraction of what we used to pay to heat and cool a townhouse. But then, summer set in early and weather records starting getting broken with the heat. Right around the same time, I started to get sick. At 5 weeks pregnant, I was nauseated and depleted of energy and started getting very sensitive to temperature and odor, and then we had a couple of 100 degree days.
It was a bad mix.

We went out and bought an air conditioning unit, and it was $150, which is fine for one AC unit, but we weren't going to buy any more at that price. Tim installed it in our bedroom and for the whole month of June, I spent my days and nights in that room working on my laptop and napping and vomiting and generally being pregnant. Tim toughed it out in the office (where we used to spend all of our working hours together) until he could stand it no longer and bought another $150 AC unit to give him some relief. Those two little units allowed us to work and sleep, but didn't improve much else at home. Call me cheap, but I wasn't willing to spend any more than $300 on improving a situation in an an apartment that we might not even live in next year. It would have cost us another $600 to outfit the rest of the rooms in our apartment with new AC units, and that was neither appealing nor in the budget.

Leaving the protective igloo of our air conditioned bedroom to run an errand or even go to the bathroom brought on a wave of heat, which brought on a wave of nausea, and I was so miserable. Those beautiful big windows in every room ushered in the full heat of the sun, and being on the top floor only increased the temperature as heat wafted up through the floorboards. Turning on the oven to cook dinner brought the kitchen to over 110 degrees, so we ate sandwiches. I left windows open to try to catch a breeze, and with it came extra dust that coated the floors. By the end of July, I was talking about moving out.
I was so mad at the situation. How could my life be made so difficult by the absence of one modern invention? Tim and I both grew up without air conditioning (albeit, in a cooler climate) and we survived. I hated the feeling that buying more really expensive stuff would make me happy, and had resentment that being pregnant was turning an irritating situation into an unbearable one just because of hormones and the fact that my body was changing outside of my control and couldn't take the heat. The absolute worst part of all this, the part that made it all plainly sad and unlivable, was that when Tim would reach for a hug, I couldn't return the affection without an inward grimace. He's just a big, warm man, and I was forever overheated and pukey.

And then last week, salvation came. We saw our downstairs neighbors packing up and moving out. Soon their kitchen window, which we had to walk by in order to get to our car, was bare and displayed a totally empty apartment save for 4 AC units grouped on the tile floor. We acted immediately by leaving a note on their door asking if we could PLEASE buy those units from them? And they called back and said yes, we could have all four for $100.

I don't have a moral to this story. Life in my home is livable and enjoyable again, and it's because of stuff. I don't know where we'll put them in the winter when we need to seal our windows again, and I don't know if we'll be able to recuperate any of the money we spent on these when we eventually move out, but I can cook a meal in my oven and eat at the kitchen table with my husband and hug him for a long time without having to pull away. So.


  1. no action shots of me installing air conditioners??? come on....

  2. Girl, with free radiator heat, you can leave those babies in the windows year-round! So happy you're finally cooling down. I would have tolerated it for far less time than you did.

  3. first of all, just caught up on your blog... every post is so thoughtful and beautifully written. ugh, I just love it. you're fantastic.

    second of all, Tyler and I have experienced this same hot-summer in Chicago situation (however, i was not pregnant!) we had moved there in mid-May and had a hard time finding an apartment, so settled on a 500sq studio (first mistake). it was fairly cool at that point, so we failed to notice that there wasn't an a/c unit anywhere in the room (and where we grew up, central a/c was a given!) as the summer progressed, we tried to make due as well as we could, but then we had about two weeks of high 90's, 100+ days. we also had the large windows which produced an oven-like atmosphere. we were broke and just bought the smallest unit we could get, which did nothing. i remember soaking my feet in cold water in the bathroom with a fan on me and just crying... it SUCKED. add to this that we hadn't been married quite a year, we were in a new city, had few friends around, had no money, were hot and cranky (okay, I was hot and cranky, Tyler just rolls with it)...anyway, it was a HARD summer. i can relate.

    okay, that's my story. so glad to hear that things are cooling off for you all... :)

    1. Jaime, that sounds so hard! At least I got the reprieve near the had to sweat it out till Fall?? It's just tough on a relationship to be in a constantly annoying situation that makes you gripey. I've been loving all the art that's been flowing out of you recently! Hope you're taking a rest now that the show is over!

  4. So glad that the little things that matter to us (although seemingly first world) matter to Jesus too :). And I agree with Cari, I left my window units in the windows all winter and wasn't cold. but yet takes a lot for me to get cold, so maybe that's a bad example ;)

    1. Here's my question: we don't have control over when our radiators come on and off, they're on a timer I think? So we do need to trap the heat as much as possible during the times the radiators aren't on, and I'm afraid leaving the AC units in the windows will allow a lot of heat to escape while we're waiting for the next round of heat to roll in. Do you have control of your radiators at your place? And also, you really do have a gift when it comes to naturally staying warm...I've never seen anything like it really.

  5. Ah. I see. For me they get turned on (whenever it gets cold) and then we can control the flow of heat into the apt. So if I'm hot, I just turn the radiator knob off...and cold, I turn it back on. It's a valve type thing, so how far open it is determines how warm it is.

    I do have a knack for never being cold. ha.