When we bought our house in the summer of 2017, I was confronted by a complicated-looking control box that sat against a wall outside our bedroom. We’d never owned anything in America before, and knew nothing of central heating and how it worked. I was pleased to see that the same controls also controlled the air conditioning. There was a little button that had a flame to the one end, a neutral middle, and a snowflake at the other end. As it was sweltering, I slid this button to the snowflake and cranked up the fans. Immediately, cool air started coming up from the vents in the floors.
Later that evening, while we were unpacking, I noticed that the air coming out of the vents was a little less cool. Thinking it probably had something to do with badly calibrated thermostats and the deeply annoying use of the Fahrenheit scale, I lowered the set temperature and forgot about it.
By the next day it was clear that the AC wasn’t working. We had waived all inspections when we bought the house, and so this was now my problem. I found a company called Greenwood Heating and Air Conditioning online, and called them. I explained that my AC wasn’t working, and we set an appointment for later that week to get it fixed.
The next day a friend of mine came round to see how we were doing.
“It’s great, but the fucking AC is bust,” I told him.
“That sucks,” Scott said. “Where’s the unit?”
I took him into the basement and opened the door to the furnace room.
“No,” Scott said, “there has to be a whole box thing, with a condenser and coils and compressors and shit.”
“Isn’t that it?” I asked.
“That’s the heating system,” Scott said. “Maybe it’s all outside. Show me.”
But I knew there was nothing else outside.
“Then you don’t have AC,” Scott said.
“But there’s a little snowflake,” I complained. “On the control unit.”
“You idiot,” Scott laughed. “Of course there is. Yours just isn’t hooked up to anything. All you did was pump up the cooler air from the basement.”
When I called Greenwood Heating and Air Conditioning, the lady I spoke to was very friendly.
“So we’ll go ahead and cancel that appointment then?” she asked.
“I think so,” I said. “You know, seeing as how I don’t have an AC unit to begin with.”
She giggled and typed something.
“I’m sure this happens every now and then?” I asked hopefully.
“Oh no,” she said, “you’re the first. And the guys are gonna love it.”