Wednesday, July 10, 2019

There Are No Working Air Conditioners in Hell

I have no evidence about the existence of an afterlife, but I can confirm that Hell is hot. Really hot. And sweaty. And there’s lots of grumpy, arguing people. All of whom I’m related to, apparently.

This past week, my family and I completed our annual pilgrimage to Hilton Head. The day after we got there, the air conditioning in our minivan went kaput.

It just so happened that this southern vacation destination that we’ve visited annually the past few years was also experiencing a warmer than usual stretch. The typical high temperature this time of year is about 90 degrees. Each day beat that average by between 5 and 8 degrees. When you factor in the humidity, the heat index was pushing 110.

And, apparently, the heat index is directly related to how often my children fight with eachother.

This is the only shady road in South Carolina.
Okay, so it wasn’t actual hell. It was South Carolina in the summer with no AC. Which is close enough. And it was vacation. So, right about now, you’re rightly thinking these are a first-world problems, and I should get a grip.

Clearly, you’ve never been in a van with my kids as hot are blew out the vents and hotter air blew in the windows. I actually cried while driving and listening to the bickering. It wasn’t so much that moment as the thought of the 934 mile drive home we would have to endure at the end of the week.

That looming trip home made me curl up in a fetal position with a bottle of rum and want to melt away. Which almost happened.

When I hit rock bottom and ran out of rum and sweat to give, I turned to my old friend Google and taught myself how to recharge the AC with coolant.

The back story is that we knew the AC was having problems before the trip. It started to struggle a few weeks before when my wife was out of town with the van, and she had to pay way too much money for some service station to recharge the AC. That fix lasted a few days before the air being spewed through the vents warmed up a gain. That told us we had a bigger problem. So, we took it to our trusty car guys and they charged us even more money to change some leaking tubes, giving us the false sense of security to drive south in the beast.

When the car AC stopped working in South Carolina, I knew that an expensive fix from a local service station would not last long enough to get us through the week or make it home. Also, we were running out of money, thanks to some sale my wife discovered on our second day there that caused her to blow our entire budget on gifts for the year ahead. But that's a story for another time. Or for never.

About halfway through the sweltering week, I watched videos on how to recharge the car's AC unit myself. It was surprisingly easy. And not that expensive.

Over the final two days of the trip, I bought 4 cans of R-134a refrigerant. That cooled things down long enough for hope to grow that we could actually make it all the way home with this temporary fix. It’s only a 14 hour drive, after all.

However, in life, and in this particular experience, I’ve learned that sometimes hope is the enemy of acceptance.

On departure day, I loaded up on cans of refrigerant at the Walmart in Hilton Head, and we turned our ship for home.

If we were smart, we would have biked the 934 miles home.
The first can lasted about an hour into the trip. The second only lasted 40 minutes. And the air coming out after the procedure first wasn’t even all that cool. By the third time we stopped the car along the side of the road so I could top off the AC with refrigerant, there was no discernable change in the hot air blowing through the vents.

Hope was lost. And heat was our reality. 

for the next 12 hours over two days of driving, the sweating was epic. The fights were legendary.

And I can confirm that Hell is hot. At least, my version of it.

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