August 13, 2006

Thursday, 8 AM. I step outside into the bright Arizona morning and realize immediately that if it’s not cooler outside it sure is a heck of a lot drier. Drinking my coffee, I assess the situation before me: I’ve got no A/C and the forecast is for a high of 106. I’ve got one room in the house struggling to stay at a breezy 84 degrees with four uncomfortable rabbits (two of which are NOT happy sharing the same living space), and the others at what seems a humid 1000 degrees centigrade. I’ve got a guy telling me a mismatched equipment issue is gonna cost a minimum of 5K – perhaps as much as 9K – to fix, and that won’t happen for another week. My home warranty company has basically told me “rotsa ruck” and given me a $306.10 kiss-off. I’ve got a Hawaiian cruise I’m about to cancel, a Yellow Pages opened to the Legal section, and a brand new credit card offer (with temporary checks and a 20K credit line!) that I just got in the mail yesterday staring me straight in the face on the counter.

“Well this sucks”, I think to myself.

8:15 AM – I start thinking about that thunderstorm the other night. Perhaps we somehow got hit by lightning, in which case case our home insurance might cover the loss. Now there’s a thought! I immediate get our Met Life rep on the phone, but she’s not in the office, so I leave a message. Now I need to talk to Vince again to see if he thinks lightning could have had something to do with it, so I call Certified A/C again, but again get their out of office message again and ask Vince to call me immediately.

8:30 AM – All along, something about Vince’s visit yesterday had stuck in my craw as wrong – you know, like Barry Manilow, Rod Stewart, Carly Simon and Toni Tennille all thinking they have the talent to sing Cole Porter. I kept thinking about the freakin’ mess he had made of my laundry room with all that crappy foam insulation coming down from his trip into the attic, and how I was the one left to clean it up. I then remembered how a previous company that Fidelity had sent (called Clockwork Engineering) had not only fixed the problem but left the laundry room spotless afterwards; I recalled being amazed at seeing the guy covered in sweat from head to toe on his knees with a broom and dustpan sweeping up the floor.

And that’s when I realized I deserved better. As a consumer. As a human being. As a stupid Arizona homeowner.

I look at all the HVAC repair invoices on my counter – I had had to drag them all out while talking with the Fidelity authorizations guy. And I call Clockwork Engineering. I tell the woman who answered my sad story and ask if they could send someone out for a second opinion – after all, I’m now a free agent (so to speak), and if I’m gonna have to dole out thousands of dollars, I might as well get another opinion and make the best best deal I can. I know I can’t expect immediate help – after all, I’m probably one of hundreds of people in the Valley suffering from an A/C outage – but, given Vince’s assessment, I’ve got more than a few days to get another opinion, right? The woman says she’ll have her husband Dave call me when he has a chance.

9 AM – The phone rings. I’m thinking it’s Vince, but it’s Dave. I tell him my sad tale and the story of the mismatched equipment. “That guy’s full of $hit”, he says, “everyone and his brother in Arizona has mismatched equipment. The builders do it to increase the airflow because of the heat and the house designs out here. Hell, I have mismatched equipment in my house. The guy is full of $hit, and Fidelity is full of $hit. Where do ya live?” When I tell him my location and how he’s been here before, he says, “Hell, I remember you – you’re the one with the biggest damned rabbit I’ve ever seen!” (referring to Marble, our 16 lb. male bun who has the run of the house). “It just so happens I’m heading over to your area and will stop by after my next call.”

10:30 AM – The doorbell rings, and it’s Dave, and he’s got one of his workers with him. “Let’s see if we can get this thing resolved one way or the other”, he says, immediately heading towards the laundry room. “Say”, he says, “it’s hotter in here than it is outside!” I nod.

11 AM – Dave and his workmate reappear, drenched in sweat. “You have a dead blower motor and a contactor. I’m heading off to Carrier and get the parts for you. Y’oughta be up and running by the end of the day, cost you no more than around $500.”

“Hello, Hawaii!”, I think to myself. Today has just got a WHOLE lot better, and I’m ready to break out the boat drinks. “But what about the mismatched equipment, the control board, and the five thousand dollars? Or even nine?”

“The guy is fulla $hit. For one thing, the control board is fine, just a couple a worn points, but nothing bad. As for the mismatched equipment, it’s like I told you, it’s something everyone does out here. Call Fidelity and tell ’em what I told you.”

“So no one has to go through my roof to match this stuff up?”

Dave laughs. “Even if I had to replace the whole damned unit up there, all I’d have to do is replace the molding around your attic entry, and that’s only because of the framing up there. I pass the old pieces down, someone passes the new pieces up. Simple. That guy just didn’t want the work. A lot of A/C guys around here are like that, y’know – there’s so much work that it’s like shooting fish in a barrel; you pick the jobs you want and where you want them.”

“Any chance we were hit by lightning?”

“Naw”, he says, “if you were, trying to get a nine-thousand dollar insurance settlement would be the least of your problems.”

12 noon – Dave reappears again and looks unhappy. “The motor I got you is defective. I’m heading back to Carrier to get a replacement.” I sigh.

1:30 PM – I hear sweeping sounds in the laundry room. Sweeter music, I’ve never heard. Dave runs the system through one final check, then, satisfied, goes outside to fill out the paperwork. I’m so happy I grab a couple of cold Diet Sprites out of the refrigerator to reward the guys for their work. Unfortunately, I forget to put my shoes on and burn the bottoms of my feet badly on the white-hot driveway.

1:50 PM – The paperwork is complete, the bill just shy of $500: a replacement blower motor and contactor, and a fan relay solution Dave used in place of a $1,200 alternate solution he says wouldn’t work as well. It’s a lot of dough, but I’ve got a $306.10 check coming to help ease the pain. The A/C units starts the hard work of cooling down the house, and after watching Dave and the other fellow drive away, I triumphantly shut the portable A/C unit and fan off. While the house remains hot, we’ve got A/C once again and a laundry room that’s spotless.

2:30 PM – The house has cooled to 90 degrees. As Dave suggested, I call Fidelity and now I’m talking to John in the authorizations department. John, I can tell, is a number cruncher, with no sense of humor. He tells me that, while it is true the use of mismatched equipment involving A/C condensing units and evaporative coils is a common practice throughout the Southwest, the differential should really be no more than 1/2 a ton, not one ton, as in our case. Nevertheless, John says, Fidelity covers such mismatches, even those greater than a 1/2 ton, but only in California, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico, not (as it just so happens) in Arizona. “It’s in the fine print”, he says, “I can point it out to you.”

“No, I believe you.”

3:30 PM – The house is at 85 degrees. All of a sudden, we lose our power. Once again, the house is dead quiet. I hold my breath and feel the heat beginning its return.

3:40 PM – The power returns with a pop. The A/C starts back up again and digital timers flash 12:00 all over the house. Everywhere, that is except our bedroom clock radio, whose LCD display is displaying something that looks like hieroglyphics. I unplug it and plug it back in again. This time, the display looks like something in Chinese. I sigh.

4:30 PM – The house is at 81 degrees. The rabbits seem to sense all is OK, because they no longer look like road kill in a cage. I’m in the pool cooling my burned feet, reflecting on what has been a very stressful day and trying to figure out the number of days until I turn 55 and become eligible for residence in a luxury adult-only apartment community. I suddenly realize I never got a return call from Vince. I get out of the pool and, still soaking wet, I call Certified A/C and once again get their out of office message. I thank them for not returning my call and politely inform them that: a) I have my A/C back at a cost of $500, b) that their service sucks, c) that I’ve complained to Fidelity about them, and d) they ought to consider purchasing a broom and dustpan to clean up after themselves.

I return outside to the heat, the pool, and my boat drink. I’m thinking disaster is something that’s always gonna be just around the corner, but at least for now, at this moment in time, all seems right with the world again.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 10:12 | Comments (2)
  1. Glad it worked out for you, GWS. Word of advice: Dave’s number goes on AC unit, on the fridge, on the bathroom mirror, on the Christmas card list, and wherever else you think you can find it when you need it and Vince’s number goes in the $hitcan.

    Comment by Rob — August 13, 2006 @ 3:43 pm

  2. Excellent advice, Rob. Thanks!

    Comment by The Great White Shank — August 13, 2006 @ 9:33 pm

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