You might think that a man who keeps his condo at 78 degrees year-round would not have an issue with a few late-spring days without AC. You might think that not having AC is fairly inconsequential. You might think that it wouldn’t be a matter of life and death, a struggle against time, cats, and human dignity.
You would be so, so wrong.
I am Jamey Stegmaier, and this is my story.
It all started on Saturday afternoon when I had a few people over to watch a very important soccer game (on TV, not between me and my cats). I drank a German beer and had several Gus’ Pretzels, possibly the best combo ever. Everything was fine.
And then everything changed forever for 3 days.
After my guests left, I went to work revising my novel. It was then that I started to notice how warm my condo felt. I honestly thought it was the beer raising my body temperature, so I started hydrating. That didn’t help, so I stripped down to just my boxers and continued writing. Survivor 101, no big deal.
Finally, I got up to check the thermostat. It was set at 78, but it was 84 degrees in my condo. I opened the balcony door to test the outside air temperature in the hopes that it was 100 degrees outside and my AC was just overloaded, but it was much cooler outside than it was inside. It was official: My air conditioner was broken.
The nightmare had begun.
Fortunately, I’m an experienced survivor, having watched 22 out of the 24 seasons of Survivor and 1 episode of Grey’s Anatomy (the latter of which was the most difficult hour I’ve ever lived–a survivor’s tale for another day). I immediately went into survival mode and did the first three things you should do in any interior survival situation (think Die Hard or 101 Dalmatians):
After a lack of success with #3, I opened some windows to circulate the cooler outside air throughout my condo.
The first night was hell on earth. I had to stick not one, but both feet out from under the blanket to keep my body temperature low enough to survive. The cats hovered near the open windows, plotting my eventual demise.
I took down my barricade long enough on Sunday to go to church and go strawberry picking–I needed supplies to survive the tough days ahead. Of course, I continued wearing my duct tape loincloth under the tattered shreds of clothing I picked from ashes of the bonfire. When I finally returned home, my cheeks red from the sun, I removed the last of my clothing and burnt it in my man candle (which is not a phallic euphemism. Click the link).
The struggle to survive became even more difficult when my cats officially began their mutiny against me. It began, as all mutinies do, with coy looks and wayward glances. It grew into a full-fledged assault as the cats claimed my desk and chair as their own. When I tried to walk into my living room, they blocked the way with a barricade that not even the strongest of men could surpass. (For your reference, if the strongest of men is The Hulk and the weakest of men is Derek Jeter, I’m just above Jeter).
I had little time before the cats devoured me whole.
I slept that night with one eye open and an open can of tuna under my pillow. For reasons that I can only attribute to the rapidly rising temperatures, the cats hounded me all night. They made it clear that it was either me or them. Or Mousy, their favorite toy.
After two days of sweating through the duct tape, I refused to shower on Monday. If I were going to submit to the heat, I was going to do it on my own smelly, disgusting terms. I turned my head to the heavens and screamed, “You will not defeat me! I will survive!”
The toughest challenge of all came that evening when I realized that due to the summer hiatus, I had no shows left on my TiVo. All that remained was the episode of Friends with The Routine and the snowball fight clip from Dumb and Dumber that makes me laugh every time.
Not this time, though. Not this time.
I decided to take matters into my own hands and fix the AC myself. I can honestly say that unscrewing the screws from the AC cover was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But I would not give up. I had made it this far–I refused to succumb to some painted over screws.
Finally the case came off in my hands and I was faced with destiny. I knew exactly what I was looking for: A neon sign that read, “This part is broken.”
It wasn’t there.
The cats had taken it.
With what little time I had left, I removed all of the shelves from my fridge and constructed a crude nest inside of it. It was the only place in my condo where the temperature was under 82 degrees. Miraculously, I survived the night.
When the repairman greeted me on Tuesday, he recognized a fellow survivor by saying, “Good God, man, put on some clothes.” We are brethren, him and I. My cats had returned the “This part is broken” sign to the AC box during the night, and the repairman was soon able to fix the box.
Although the AC is now working, there is no going back to the life I had before this weekend. Back then I lived the high life, staying in on Friday nights and diluting my orange-mango juice with tap water and a little Sprite. That man is no more.
The man you see before you today, resplendent in a duct tape loincloth that will never come off (not for lack of trying), is a man who refuses to back down in the face of adversity. This is a man who has risen from the ashes of his own clothes to emerge like the phoenix in Harry Potter, conveniently appearing wherever and whenever the plot requires. This is a man who will look life in the eyes and quickly look away, avoiding prolonged eye contact.
This man is Jamey Stegmaier.
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