People don’t want to come visit me at my apartment because I don’t have an air conditioner. Because I care a little too much what other people think, I decided to go ahead and buy one. Well, also because I would like to start sleeping through the night again. Even I have to admit it’s been getting a little sticky lately.
But it was with great ambivalence that I walked the 6 avenue blocks to my neighborhood electronic store. It turns out air conditioners are not so cheap. The noisiest, weakest air conditioner is $219, and that’s not accounting for the insurance policy the counter guy will surely sell you and the inflation of the monthly electric bill. Also they need to be installed with a drill and screws so they don’t fall out of your apartment window and kill someone. Your apartment probably only has two windows, which means the air conditioner will be using up 50% of your chance to ever breathe fresh air again.
Naturally I was in a foul mood when the floor salesman–his name was Andy, and he had a heavy Slavic accent–finally rang me out. That was the point of upsell. While I was waiting for my father to reply to my text message (did I want the $100 insurance policy? because I didn’t think I wanted it, but I never really know what I want until someone else tells me), I scowled at Andy.
“What’s the matter?” he said. “You should be happy. This is good purchase.”
“You know,” I began. You know how expensive it is to break up with your boyfriend and try to be independent? The higher rent, the security deposit, the broker’s fee. New furniture for the entire apartment. Moving, technology, being homeless. Your empty bank account reinforcing the knowledge that you’ve effed up as a woman.
Andy nodded through this. “I met old Polish lady once who lived through Holocaust. She say to me, ‘Hard life is when you have to make bread out of bark, from tree,’ ” he said. Andy pointed at my nose. “All your life troubles are a funny joke.”
I guess the secret to being a good salesman is guessing which particular pitches work on which customers. I bought the insurance plan and waddled out with a little more credit card debt. But hey! At this point, what does another $300 bucks matter?
Being very reasonable and responsible, though, I did not waste money on the delivery fee. After all, I only lived 6 blocks away. 6 avenue blocks. But still.
The stock guy wheeled my new air conditioner to the pavement outside the store and disentangled his hand truck from my new problem. “You got a friend or something to help you with that?” he asked genially.
“No,” I said. “No friends.” The box looked much larger on the sidewalk than it had looked in a stack of other boxes. “How much you think this weighs? Thirty pounds?”
“Maybe sixty,” he said.
Sixty. I could do it. I wasn’t chewing any bark bread today.
It took me half an hour to get home. There were slashes of blood blisters across and above my elbows where the box chafed, and my right hip was wrapped in a dark green bruise larger than my palm. I finally understood the meaning of the idiom “sweat popped out on my forehead.” But I carried my own goddamn air conditioner.
It’s true. All my problems are a funny joke.
I had suffered great physical abasement to buy an air conditioner I didn’t want with money I didn’t have and now I am a real independent woman. I had never felt in better condition in my life.