I Lived Through 3 Days Without Air Conditioning: A Survivor’s True Tale of Survival Against All Odds

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.

“The mutiny grew into a full-fledged assault as the cats claimed my desk and chair as their own.”

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):

  1. I stripped naked and created a loincloth using only duct tape and my dignity.
  2. I sealed shut all doors using wood from my desk and cabinets.
  3. I started a bonfire to send smoke signals for help using my clothes, food, and cell phone as kindling.

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).

“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.”

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.

For more True Tales of Survival, click here and scroll down.

13 Responses to “I Lived Through 3 Days Without Air Conditioning: A Survivor’s True Tale of Survival Against All Odds”

  1. […] I Lived Through 3 Days Without Air Conditioning: A Survivor's True … […]

  2. Anne Riley says:


    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Thanks Anne! Hopefully someday you’ll do another survival entry–your first one was amazing. 🙂

  3. T-Mac says:

    Deep down, I always had a feeling that adding a second cat to your household would eventually end in your demise. The one man-one cat ratio was a fair fight, even as your already feeble muscles deteriorate in the 82-degree inferno. Two cats, however, clearly form a posse of power. Let this be a lesson to you, Survivor, as you continue your life in this perilous environment. Eat one cat now or next time you may not be so lucky.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      OR I should add more cats to the equation and hope that they hunt each other down before they turn on me.

      This made me laugh out loud for multiple reasons: “even as your already feeble muscles deteriorate in the 82-degree inferno.”

  4. Emma says:

    I’m really glad you made it. More importantly, how have we not bonded over our mutual dedication to Survivor? I have not seen that many seasons but I confess I am addicted to the scenery and challenges, especially in the winter.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      “More importantly”?! I barely survived this ordeal, Emma! 🙂

      I LOVE Survivor. I think it’s a perfectly constructed competitive reality show. The producers have it down to a science, and yet the people and the twists make every season seem fresh. I’m really looking forward to this upcoming season when they bring back 3 former contestants who had to be removed from the game during their respective seasons due to injuries and illness.

      • Emma says:

        Despite denying being sucked into tv watching parties throughout my life, I now watch Survivor weekly with some friends. Prepare to get invited come September.

        Regardless of some of the stupid drama, it is REALLY well constructed and was the first of this genre (Road Rules and Real World were earlier but different beasts). I am so glad Redemption Island is over (I felt like duels were NOT good replacements for reward challenges, both for viewers and contestants), and we’ll see if they can keep up such a long run!

        • Jamey Stegmaier says:

          Ah, the infamous TV-watching party. I used to do those. Now it’s more difficult for me to justify. Although Survivor is a fun one to watch with other people.

          So you didn’t like Redemption Island at all? Although I don’t think the execution was perfect (there definitely shouldn’t have been two opportunities to get back into the game), I feel like there is some value to the concept. I’d do it this way: The first 6 people voted out would go to Redemption Island. Then, on the same day that the rest of the tribe merges, those 6 people participate in a challenge that is both social (i.e., you can affect the other players’ chances–thus there’s a reason to continue to get to know people and play the social game when you’re on Redemption Island) and part mental/physical. The winner of the challenge is let back into the game, with the twist that they get to choose one person to join them (that might adequately cover the social game).

          • Emma says:

            I didn’t hate the idea of Redemption Island, but mostly I hated that it took away from some of my favorite parts of the game. Due to time restrictions, those seasons simply didn’t have reward challenges. Not only do I totally nerd out about the challenges themselves, picking people to go on reward with you is one of the trickiest strategy points of the entire game.

            Watching two people duel it out was fine, but I missed the alternative.

            What you propose sounds interesting, I like it!

            • Jamey Stegmaier says:

              Yeah, the lack of reward challenges was definitely a loss. I think if you just had Redemption Island build up to a critical mass and then have one reward challenge, it would work really well.

  5. Jasmin says:

    Jamey, your next survivor tale should be surviving taking off that duct tape loincloth. Ouch! How was that even a good idea in the first place? Make me think of the 40 year old virgin chest waxing scene.

    And those cat pictures are so cute. Walter is cat copying Biddy’s every move. Awww! 🙂

  6. […] on the blog in the past, so I won’t delve into them here. After all, I already told you about my ordeal involving the air conditioner this past summer. I thought I was going to be able to fix it after unscrewing the panel, but apparently air […]

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