Tyler and I live on the 3rd floor of a brownstone-like building in Brooklyn. For reasons we do not understand, the temperature in the apartment reaches an unbearable 95 degrees in the summer. Recently, we purchased an air conditioning unit and now we can sit comfortably in our home and, well, breathe…and think straight.
But the air conditioning unit has become a saga in our lives that will not end. There were arrangements to get the unit (we do not have a car), arrangements to install the unit (did you know that the Home Depot in New York City does not cut wood?) and, most recently, arrangements to keep the unit (the landlord is not happy that it drips on to their patio– so now we have tubes and glues and goops and screws scattered around the apartment as we attempt to direct the flow of water elsewhere.)
In the grand scheme of things, this is not a big deal, but we find that it is a topic of conversation we can not avoid, whether it is about the unbearable heat before the air conditioner was installed or the shenanigans we are going through to have it in our home. We talk about it with one another endlessly. We subject friends and family and strangers to the saga at dinner parties. We even (ahem) blog about it for the entire public to view.
In other words, the air conditioning unit is an obsession.
In a recent discussion with people who live outside of New York City about (what else?) the air conditioner, it was determined that this is officially crazy. Price shopping for units, renting zip-cars, having consultations with the landlord about the unit not falling out of the window on to unsuspecting citizens’ heads, carrying 8 foot wooden beams throughout the city to find someone who cuts wood, redirecting the flow of water so the landlord does not feel torrential rains while bbq-ing, that, all of this, is sheer madness.
Because, the conversation continued, this doesn’t happen outside of the city. This doesn’t happen in cozy suburbs where central air conditioning is the norm, where there are Lowes and Home Depots on every corner, and people have cars to get to where they go. This doesn’t happen in new developments with brand new four bedroom, three bathroom homes that boast luxuries like washers and dryers and dishwashers.
Of course, this has occurred to me before. When I visit people’s homes and they have things like porches and patios and gardens, and grass, imagine that! Grass that is so expansive, so wild, you have to do things like mow it. Of course, this has occurred to me, that in places other than a city, or even in the city (I’ve put in air conditioning units with no trouble in the past) installing an air conditioner is not an epic home project, if you even have to install one at all.
And so, during the course of our conversation, it became clear to me that this air conditioning unit, and our obsession with it, is a symbol of city life; cerebral and maddening, the stuff that Seinfeld episodes and Woody Allen films are made of.
That it is a microcosm for spending $1,000,000 for a tiny one bedroom apartment in Manhattan, squeezing yourself into an insufficent picnic spot in an overwhelming crowded Central Park, getting dinner reservations months in advance in order to sit outside on a filthy sidewalk at a new restaurant, sitting in hours worth of traffic to get to a just-as-crowded beach on Long Island on a holiday weekend, carrying 15 bags of groceries from the dirty Gristedes or Met or Key Foods up to your fifth floor walk up, which does not have a washer, dryer, dishwasher, porch, patio, lawn, garden, or, sometimes, even, a closet in which to put your clothes.
All if this is, decidedly, crazy.
After several glasses of wine, I found myself having to defend my decision to live in this city, sputtering ridiculous things like but where else can you get authentic chinese noodles three blocks from your apartment? Because, I could not, for the life of me, explain why I was fighting for the right to pay thousands of dollars to live in a sweltering, miniscule apartment where it takes the better part of a month to install an air conditioner.
All I know, is that I do not think any of this is crazy. I can not adequately explain why because it will sound ridiculous. Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge on a sunny day, she says and rolls her eyes. Walking over the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and looking down at all the traffic, she tries, but, no, that is not it. The little red-headed girls, twins, who ride identical scooters across President Street the same time, every day, as I walk to the subway. Closer, she thinks.
Crazy? Maybe. And, yet, no. What do you think?