A couple of months ago, the compressor went out and we just had hot air blowing for two days...a.k.a. an eternity. We've only had one other problem with our A/C since we moved into the house over six years ago. I honestly don't even remember what the problem was, but this guy came and looked at it and quoted us a $150 fix. Sounded good to me. I was here when he fixed it. Surprise, surprise..."Well, I encountered a few more issues than I originally thought, so the total ended up coming to be $450."
Oh. Okay. That's a great deal.
So, of course, this instilled the Hollywood-ized distrust of all A/C repairmen or maintenance folk in general. When the air went out those few months ago, I dreaded having to find someone. I Googled "A/C repair" for our area...the first name that came up was Melvin Sweets (last name changed to protect his super secret identity). I figured we'd give Melvin a shot, see what he had to say about the issue. After what seemed like the longest phone conversation ever, David set down his cell phone, his ear red and flattened, and explained that Melvin would be by tomorrow. I asked why it took so long on the phone and David replied, "Well, he, uh, pretty much just gave me his life story. I know everything there is to know about him. Did you know the street he lived on was named after him because he's lived there for 60 years?" That was good to know.
Melvin came over the next evening. Sure enough...Melvin was a talker. He spent three hours with us that night...about 30 minutes of which were actually dedicated to working on the A/C unit. I was panicking because I knew he was going to charge us for the time he was there and I kept motioning to David to "wrap it up." You know how you can ask a question or respond to a question in such a way that would warrant a huge explanation or analogy from a talker. But, sometimes, if you just nod and agree, the talker will move on to the next point and finish the conversation more quickly. (I know this because I am a talker. It's been said that if you ask me for the time, I'll tell you how to build a watch. This is true.) Well, this tactic didn't work on Melvin. You could honestly be in a coma and he'd still carry on a conversation with you. So, we just made it through his lectures about proper air conditioning unit care and how to lower our electric bills. He's one of the nicest guys we've ever met, though. It was just hot...and late at night...and I wanted the A/C back on. He finally finished, the air was back on, PRAISE THE LORD, and Melvin headed out. We got a bill a few weeks later. He only charged us for the 30 minutes he actually did work. I felt bad for placing him in the air conditioning repairman stereotype. He was one of the few honest ones.
So, like I said, last week, the A/C didn't seem to be performing at an optimum level and that bothered me. It was running too much. Then, on Sunday, it wouldn't cool below 80. Rats. We knew something was up again. David checked the lines...one of which was frozen over. We suspected a freon leak. We knew we would have to call Melvin. After expecting Melvin at 6:00 p.m. and learning he had two flat tires, had to drop off supplies at his house, and needed to eat supper, he finally arrived at 9:00 p.m.
Leon freak confirmed. I totally just typed "leon freak" accidentally. Actually, Leon IS a freak. But, also, the freon leak was confirmed. After lecturing us about the type of lightbulbs we were using and informing us that we, in general, needed to keep our air warmer and wear lighter clothes (he told us he would wash his shirts 40 times before he'd wear them to get them thin enough to be comfortable), Melvin topped us off with freon for the night and said he'd be back in the morning to finish the repairs.
This meant I would be working, keeping the children alive, and dealing with Melvin all at the same time. Whhhhyyyyy meeeeeee?????
Monday morning, around 8 o'clock, I get a phone call. It's Melvin. This is what I hear...
"RUTH! It's Melvin! Melvin...the maintenance guy. You know, I came yesterday."
"Yes, haha, I know you, Melvin. Hi, how are you this morning?"
"Well, I'm...I'm...whew...I'm not...well, I definitely need some coffee in me this morning. I'm pretty slammed full this morning. Got a lot going on. But, I'll be there in a couple of hours. Now, listen. I'm already covered in dirt. And I've got holes in my shirt. So, don't let me scare you. But, hey, I ain't trying to impress you. I know you've got a good husband. He seems like a good one."
What the heck?? "Uhm. Yes. He's definitely a keeper. And no worries at all...haha, me and the girls are in our pajamas, so you'll fit right in."
"WE'RE WEARING PAJAMAS."
"Oh, gosh. Pajamas. Well, I might...well, no. I'm not going to change into my pajamas."
"No, I know that. I'm just saying don't even worry about what you're wearing."
"Oh, okay. I'll see you in a couple hours."
Melvin arrived a couple of hours later. Melvin is 78 years old. He's almost deaf. You have to yell everything. He's about 6'5" and is shaped like a smaller rectangle (head) set on top of a larger rectangle (torso) set on top of two toothpicks (legs). He has white-gray hair and a very stylish hair style, I must say. I know he doesn't care about it at all, but it's really hip. It's like when my great-grandmother Esther cut her butt-length hair off. It was this super chic pixie cut. She hated it. But we kept trying to tell her, "Mamaw Esther...dude, your hair looks awesome. Do you know how many women would die for that texture?" She didn't care.
Anyways. Melvin's beard matches the color of his hair and it really stands out against his ruddy complexion. But, it's an Amish beard...the kind that only goes down the sides and under his chin. No mustache. His eyes are bright blue and they always seem happy. He's very intelligent and is very articulate. His thoughts and sentences don't always seem to be cohesive, but I think it's because his mind works faster than his mouth can keep up.
Ding dong...knock knock knock...ding dooooooong....knock--"RUTH! IT'S MELVIN!!"
I shook my head with a laugh, opened the door and sure enough, his shirt was stained with sweat and dirt and populated with holes. Talking with Melvin is like talking with my Papaw G. No need for fluff, just get straight to the point. And he did.
"I'm going to go up into your attic and look at what we've got on the unit."
"Sure thing. Do you need a flashlight?"
"DO YOU NEED A FLASHLIGHT?"
"Now, Ruth. I am a professional. I am a grown man. If I come to your house to provide a service and don't show up with my own tools like I don't know what I'm doing, well, then, you just send me right on home, cuz I ain't worth nothin'."
He climbs up into the attic in the garage. Looks around.
"Where's the light switch?"
"There is no light up there."
"Huh. Yeah, okay. I need a flashlight."
I get him one and sit back down at the computer. He's up there for about 20 minutes. I can hear muffled scrapes and knocks. I can't even imagine how hot it is up there.
The garage door opens. I save the file I'm working on and spin around in my chair, preparing myself for the news. And there they are...in all their glory...old man moobs. Apparently, it was REALLY hot and even his thin, hole-infested shirt was too much, so Melvin stripped down to his shorts. He was covered neck to waist, shoulder to wrist in gray and white-mixed wiry hair. Everything jiggled. He propped one arm way up high on the wall and the other on his hip. It was like a pin-up photo shoot gone horribly wrong. Whhyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy am I here?!?!?!
It was all I could do to keep my gaze fixed directly at his eyes...instead of wandering down to...them. Not that I wanted to. But, you know, when you see a wreck on the side of the road, it's disturbing (and you hope everybody's okay), but you have to look.
Melvin explained that there was a leak...but this is all I heard:
"What you've got here is a textbook freon leak. Happens all the time. In 1976 when I installed my first unit....now copper ain't as cheap as it used to be...the price has gone way up...so, it's cheaper to use this stuff...it integrates well with freon and when it reaches oxygen, it seals up...now my daughter had her baby at that hospital and my son works at the library in town...do you go to the library?...and the C13 units are just as well-made as those Trane models...but I do always go with Trane...I see that on a lot of newer houses these days...those babies of yours sure are cute...you are very blessed....if you guys will keep your air at 78 and wear light cotton shirts like I do...or sleeveless shirts...you're going to notice a huge difference in your electric bill...that's based on a gas furnace, but I think Craftsman would work for it...but it's a whole lot cheaper than replacing the coil."
Thirteen minutes later and my eyes were starting to bleed. My face felt violated. Basically, he was going to inject something into the system which would seal the leaks.
Melvin did just that, donned his shirt (praise the Lord) and headed out with one last comment..."Now, this next week...I'm going to be gone. I'm taking my tractor up to the world's largest tractor show up in Indiana. But if you need something, call this number here and they'll help you. I can only afford to go once ever' three years or so, so I've really been looking forward to it. Gotta make sure I pack enough light shirts. A'ight...take care of them babies, now."
"Yes, sir. And thank you."
"Hey, it's what I do!"