• Cynthia Dagnal-Myron

The humbling: What sizzling in 111 degree heat without AC taught me...

For 20 years, I've paid one of those "warranty" companies to fix--or replace--my air conditioning system should it finally die.

And die it did. Two weeks ago, when the temperature shot up to 111 degrees here in Tucson. Yes, you read that right. And it was even hotter in Phoenix--by mid-afternoon.

I called the company at once in an understandable panic.

But due to COVID, or so they said, I had to wait on hold for over an hour. The rep "expedited" the order due to the extreme heat and promised to call back quickly with a contractor who could get to me ASAP.

Another hour later? No call yet.

So I called back. Waited not quite another hour and finally got an email with the contact info of a contractor...whose voicemail said his inbox was full and to call back later.

Frantic by then, I emailed. Waited another hour--apparently "expedited" means something different at that company--and received an email saying I would have to wait at least a day. And then, I'd have to pay extra for "after hours" service, since they were booked solid during normal business hours.

I paid up. And then set up fans in the three rooms I use most often, ready to literally sweated out the hours. The temperatures in the house reached 90-plus at the afternoon peaks both days.

I had to turn off my computer--PCs don't like to be warm. My laptop overheated, too. Even my cell had to be turned off.

I dutifully drank tons of water. And flung myself out on the couch to watch TV--thank God, that--and the big box fan I slept next to--didn't let me down.

The tech arrived at 7 p.m. on the third day. And decided he knew what to do before I'd finished explaining what I'd heard. The capacitator was replaced minutes later--I rejoiced at the loud "hum" that let me know all was again right with the world.

Or...so thought.

You're ahead of me, right? Yes. A few days later, the squealing began again. Then, the hum stopped. The fan was blowing hot air again. In 106 degree weather.

And so...the cycle of calls began. Again. The "expediting" was promised. Again.

But it would take three more days for the first contractor to be reached and assigned this time. And he would tell me that it would be another 5-7 days before they could come back.

I couldn't possibly wait that long. There were excessive heat warnings for the entire week, yet again.

So, fearing for my physical and emotional health, I paid someone else to come save my life. You don't want to know how much I paid for the motor required. And by then, I would've paid anything.

And though chagrined that I'd had to pay out of pocket, I breathed a sigh of relief as the cool air wafted in and the worries wafted away.

The ordeal, I hope, is over. But now the fight to be reimbursed has begun. I knew it would.

The company insists I should've gotten their permission to use an outside contractor, even though it might've taken me most of the day to get that done. Most of the day in dangerously high temperatures.

So I've called in all the right organizations, governmental and otherwise, to see if they can help these people see reason.

But...none of this is the real reason I wrote this story. Bet you were ahead of me there, too. too.

I really want to talk about what bubbled up as I lay stewing on the couch, on the carpet and in my damp bed that first time I had to wait for a contractor to come. Something I've decided to keep in my mind and heart every single day from now on.

Simple thing, really. And yet, as many simple things are, rather profound.

You see, miserable as I was...I HAD an air conditioner. In my HOUSE. I house I own, that has computers, a TV, cell phone, landline...food...water--all the amenities. Well...the basics. No pool or tennis court or anything. Tiny patio, though. Which is useless until well into fall.

But you get the idea. I was merely inconvenienced. Though it's a little more serious than that given my age and health issues.

But there are men, women and children who have none of the above. Ever. No matter what the weather's like.

They are exposed the elements, the meanest of weather, the meanest of streets, every single day. And night.

Others have shelter of some kind--even houses--but have only fans and the flow they make through the house when you open windows at either end of those houses.

They go about their daily routines...routinely, in this weather.

I collapsed. Ordered out the first day, because I dared not cook. Had them leave the food at the door. Contactless delivery--what a concept! They wouldn't have wanted to come into my very hot house anyway, poor things. Or face the damp, dispirited wretch I'd become.

On the second day, though...I got up off the couch and cooked. Did laundry. Moved around and let the heat seep in.

I wanted my my body to really feel it. And my mind to take it all in. Like I'd done in sweat lodges, where you give in to the heat willingly. As a sort of sacrament.

Still drank a small lake's worth of water. Made sure I didn't hurt myself. But I quit pampering myself, too.

And I survived. And grew more thoughtful, more awake and aware than I had been in ages. Mother Nature was calling the shots. I had to pay attention to Her and the body she'd given me.

I had to face the fear, too. And think about what I feared--how I'd come to rely upon so many "things" that allowed me to be "fearless" most of the time.

I'm not going to move into a yurt and tough it out from now on or anything. I know what I have. I like what I have.

And I'm not ashamed that I'll probably still give more money than time to the charities that reach out to those who don't have what I have. In the end it's money most organizations really need. They'll usually admit as much, when other types of aid are offered.

But it's the mindfulness--the acknowledgement...the "holding in my heart and mind," daily, that I never want to forget again. Doesn't seem like much, but...I have a feeling it's more significant than it sounds.

They are mostly invisible to us, those who "have not." I learned that when I briefly worked at a homeless shelter. How most of us do not "suffer with." Of even "think about."

I "felt." for a few harrowing, humbling hours. I wasn't Lady Bountiful handing out sack lunches and frozen bottles of water. I was a whiny, sweaty mess in need of care myself.

I won't say I'm glad it happened. I will say, it may have needed to.

Now I have to decide what to do with the lesson learned...

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