I am about to make a statement that makes me sound like my grandfather. I don’t care. I loved my grandfather. A WHOLE LOT of people loved my grandfather. And besides, I am a grandfather myself, three times over. So I can say what I am about to say and have it be totally in character. And not only that, but I truly mean what I am about to say with my whole heart!
“Life used to be simpler.”
There! I said it, I’m glad I said it, and I’m not ashamed that I said it.
And it’s true.
For instance, there was a time when we used to rent telephones. Seriously. We didn’t buy them, we rented them. From the phone company (of which, in the easier days, there was ONLY ONE!) SERIOUSLY!!! All customers of Ma Bell used to rent all of their phones from her. The rental fee was added to the monthly phone bill.
When’s the last time you rented a phone?
Today, you have four hundred thousand decisions to make when “buying” a phone. Do you want text messaging? Blue tooth? Video games? WI-FI? How thin? Flip-up? What service? Can you hear me now? How many monthly minutes? What style of phone do you want? (You must pick one that matches your persona and makes a statement about you.)
Back in the day, we thought we were making a statement if we had more than one phone in the house! And the only decision that we had to make was, “What color do you want?” There was black, white, yellow, green and red.
No worrying about roll-over minutes. No “going over” your minutes.
Way back before dirt, you were charged a flat monthly rate for as many local calls as you wanted to make. And long distance calls were so much per minute.
And what about ring tones? Six years ago, the term ring tone didn’t even exist! Now, there are literally THOUSANDS of them to choose from!
(I recently heard a commercial on the radio in which Tom Bodette says, “There was once a time when we all had the same ring tone, and it sounded like . . . the phone.”)
Back when God was a kid, you could tell what state you were calling by the area code because each state had only one area code.
Sounds like a different world, huh?
It sure was.
I miss it!
But, phones are not what I want to talk about.
I want to talk about air conditioners.
The one connecting thread between my revelries about the phones of my youth and air conditioners is…simplicity.
Okay, I bought a new air conditioner the other day
One that slides into a window.
Sounds simple, right?
I brought the thing home from the electronics superstore thinking that I just had to open the box on my bed, extract the unit, open the bedroom window, slide the thing into the opening, and then close the window down snug on top of it.
Well…great, big, silly me!
As I opened the box and peered down into it, my heart was suddenly filled with dread. Instead of seeing an air conditioner, I saw the one thing that always scares the crap out of me and sends jolting lightning bolts searing down my spine. I saw…
Yes, freaking PARTS! There must have been three million plastic and metal parts in there!
I looked on the front of the box and, to my dismay and disgust, I saw words printed there that I had overlooked before. Words that curdle milk and send good and otherwise sensible people screaming down the road in terror: Some assembly required.
SOME???? Hell! There were enough screws, bolts, rivets and cables there to assemble the Golden Gate Bridge, for Christ’s sake!
So, crestfallen and heavy-hearted, I trudged down the stairs to get the screwdriver.
I HATE screwdrivers! I just knew that I would get the wrong size and the wrong style of screwdriver if I only brought back one, so I grabbed every freaking one that was in the toolbox, and walked back up the stairs with more metal in my hands than a samurai warrior.
(Can somebody explain to me why the hell it’s necessary to have more than ONE FREAKING TYPE of screw head? Why can’t they all be regular screws? You know, the ones with a single, straight groove across the head? Why, oh why do some have to be Phillips heads? Or worse, those new, star-shaped bastards that nobodyon the planet has the right screwdriver for? Wouldn’t life be easier if they were all the same kind?)
Anyway, back in the bedroom, I emptied the entire contents of the box out on the bed, and, I swear to God, all the metal pieces that lay there before me looked the aftermath of the Twin Towers on 9/11.
I almost cried. All I wanted was cool air in my bedroom so that I could sleep comfortably for about two nights in the dead of August. (Here in Connecticut, that’s about all the “bad” sleeping nights we get. The rest of the summer, we get by very nicely simply by opening the windows and turning on the ceiling fan that is over the bed.)
I was so overwhelmed looking at the metallic carnage on my bedspread that I did something I very rarely ever do. I actually began reading the stupid assembly directions.
And those directions, to put it delicately, diplomatically and objectively, . . . sucked.
“Step 1439: Attach the dual cams to the bottom of the outer housing of the compressor using forty-two standard, 5/364-sized lag bolts.”
HOW???!!!! What the hell’s a dual cam, and what’s it doing on an air conditioner? WHERE on the outer compressor housing? WHAT KIND of fucking screws????? “MARY! WHAT IN THE GOOD CHRIST DOES A COMPRESSOR HOUSING LOOK LIKE?”
Mounting brackets, lag bolts, metal housings, support brackets, compressors, Type A screws, slide tracks…the damned pamphlet might just as well have been written in Mandarin, for all the good it did me! And there were NO PICTURES!!!!!!!!!!!! NOT ONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Well, after three hours of me cursing and wailing and slamming things around the bedroom at high velocities, I was seriously considering just dumping everything back into the box that it came from, sealing the box shut, and then just throwing the whole hellish thing out of the closed, second story window like it was shot out of a cannon.
As I gleefully envisioned this contraption from Satan’s workshop lying twisted, mangled and whimpering in my backyard, my thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the bedroom door.
I looked up and saw my youngest son, the carpenter, standing there.(Unbeknownst to me at the time, Mary had called him to solicit his help.) As he surveyed the scene of me sitting there cross-legged on the bed with screwdrivers in both hands, sweat and tears pouring down my face, and pieces of white metal and plastic strewn everywhere, his reaction was simply, “Oh, wow!”
Then, he looked at me, smiled, and said, “Need a hand, old man?”
About fifteen minutes later, the damned air conditioner was in the window, humming quietly, and filling the bedroom with cool, crisp, dehumidified air.
Sometimes, I really hate and love my son at the same time.
Screwdrivers, Phones and Air Conditioners
Displaying Screwdrivers, Phones and Air Conditioners.