On the hottest day of the year the dog melted and the paint ran and the grass died and everyone laid down and wished for the sweet release of death. Somewhat. Maybe not so bad. But it was hot; the heat index, which is heat + sopping air, was 103 or something. Torpid. Soaking. Saturated. Around 1 PM I heard the air conditioner turn off.

Ah hah: the Saver Switch. I got a rebate on my power bill because the switch let the power company turn off my A/C remotely for brief periods of time. No skin off my sweating nose, really, and I got some discounts.

The air conditioner didn't come back on.

I heard it struggle: it would start, hum, quit. I watched it: the fan didn't come on. This wasn't right. Around three PM I called the power company, and the recording said they couldn't take non-critical calls because of the Storm and the Outages; please try later. At four I got through, and the nice cheerful lady said yeppers! We're shuttin' 'em down right and left. But if mine didn't come back to life, I should turn off the breaker for a minute, then turn it back on, then wait 7 minutes and 30 seconds.

Not seven minutes and 47 seconds?

The customer service lady laughed and said she knew it sounded weird but that was how it was.

So this I did and this did not work. I called back, and the customer service lady - a different one, of course - said I should call the emergency after-hours number for the Saver Switch company. It was run by Hunt Electronic. They controlled the switch, and they controlled the horizontal, and they controlled the vertical. I called.

Recording. You have reached the after-hours emergency line. Please leave your name and number.

This was six. No one ever called me back.

We slept poorly.

The next morning, get this, I got a call from the power company. They wanted to help me through the process of getting my air conditioning back. The rep - Julie, as I'll call her now - was focused and dedicated and she knew her Saver Switches. She said it was possible it had fubar'd my A/C unit, but we'll see. She was sending out SOMEONE FROM HUNT.

Around 11, the Man From Hunt showed up. He looked at the Saver Switch. I should note it was as hot as before, and the house was now hotter than the Stygian depths because of the previous day and night. He said the Switch was okay. I told him to get rid of it, because I was in . . . a mood. I was also hosting a podcast at the time, and had to cut away and go downstairs to deal with this. He removed the switch and left. I called Julie, and told her that the Guy From Hunt had left and I still didn't have any AC.

She said she was sending out . . . ANOTHER MAN FROM HUNT.

"And he can fix it?"

"He'll be able to tell what's the problem."

He came at 1:30. Great guy. I told him I thought there'd been a surge, either from the startup after the outage or the stupid Saver Switch, and it fried my capacitor. But what do I know; I don't know anything. I don't care if you find the carcass of a decomposed gremlin in there, I just want it back on.

Because this is now the focal point of my day. Not clean water or food for the family or a sanitary pit for excretion or a decent job or relief from chronic back pain but COOL AIR. Whatever you lack and need, that's the intense, aggravating focus. I know this isn't the biggest thing in the world but my GOD it is hot and somehow this thing broke during the Saver Switch Jamboree and it seems likely there's a connection, no? And even if there isn't I don't care. Wife is coming home in five hours. I want to give her a cool house.

He takes my capacitor conjecture with a grain of salt - palms up, whoa, let's not get ahead ourselves - and gets to work. Twenty minutes later he thinks he has the answer.

"I think it's the capacitor," he says. "But it might be something else. Could be a pump."

"Right okay fine but capacitor, do you have one, right?"

Palms up, whoa. "I don't repair heating and air conditioning. They won't even sell me a capacitor. They won't even sell you a capacitor."

I am dumbstruck and stare at him with the look of the mad and the damned: I do not want to be sold a capacitor, I say. I want someone to put a capacitor where there should be a functioning capacitor, and you're saying you can't?

Palms up. "I'm an electrician, not a heating and air conditioning guy."

I can't be mad at him; I can't be mad at anyone. I understand exactly what is going on. But yet I am mad.

So I call Julie back, steaming, even though I remember the last conversation:

"And he can fix it?"

"He'll be able to tell what's the problem."

She didn't say he would fix it. They're the power company. They don't fix appliances. That would be the other power company, from whom I get my gas. So I talk to Julie, steaming, because even though it's not her fault I have had four conversations with four different people over the course of 26 hours and I am absolutely no closer to beginning to start to make an appointment for a repairman. GAH

I call the other power company. To my amazement, she said she can get a repairman to the house between now and nine. Huzzah. Drive daughter to work. Go home. Nap, because I got 5.5 hours of sleep the previous night. Phone rings after 27 minutes of nap; the repairman will be here in a half an hour. Great.

Dour Russian. But I repeat myself. He looks at the air conditioner, which I had hosed off a while ago to get the schmutz off the intake screens on the side.

"We can clean later," he says, sad.

He asks me if furnace fan is going. I've been asked this by many people over the last few days. It's the fan in the upstairs hallway, I gather. It's as far from the furnace as you can get in the house, but yes. It's going.

"The feelter. Hev you change feelter."

In my mind's eye I see the filter wearing about two inches of fur. "Recently," I say. "Not the last few months."

He nods, having peered into my soul and seen my lies. Is not new. Everyone lies about feelter.

He gets to work. At 5:40 I have to pick up daughter from work; I look around the corner - pieces everywhere, Dmitri bent over the AC unit, and I think "I'll be back in five, no reason to break his concentration." En route to pick up daughter she texts me: got out of work early, went to lake with Lily, pick us up at south beach. GAH. This is actually not a problem, because the lake shore is closer.

Phone rings. Dimitri.

"Are you here? Did you go?"

Oh god. I explain, picking up daughter, just a few minutes, be right there, sorry sorry. Pull up to the beach, frantically wave to daughter and friend: GET IN DMITRI IS WAITING and we peel out. I explain that this is a double horror, because not only am I making him cool his heels, but my actions have affected the happiness of someone in my situation who's next on his list.

We get home. Dimitri says "I feext." He points to a box on the table. "It wus capacitor."

"Well, I figured as much."

"Do you want service plan? You are not on service plan." I have a repair plan for the big-ticket items - furnace, dishwasher, oven, so on. But not AC unit. Dmitri gives me a look that says given you being who you are, I would recommend. I sign on, yes, because the unit's 15 years old and I am so sorry about the condition of my furnace fan filter.

He goes inside and puts a thermometer in the vent. It's blowing cool. We're good.

"Dmitri," I say, "you have done a wonderful thing, and you have saved the day and the weekend, and my wife will be happy and I am happy."

You know what? He grinned. He looked down and he just smiled. Either because it was nice to hear for once, or because these idiots always say that and they never think about changing feelters.

It took hours for the house temp to drop 5 degrees, but don't blame me; I drove to Target and bought a new feelter and put it in.

Flash ahead 16 hours. It's cold in the house. Wife says:

Maybe turn off the AC? Maybe open a window? Ah. A breeze. Much better.


A small piece of patrotica for this week's Odds & Ends feature. It was an advertisement that passed along some things the civvies ought to know.

"Yoo Hoo EDDIE" is not conducive to military discipine - something the fellow in the left seems to know.

Does she honestly expect him to look over and wave?






Well, here's a slab of crap.

After a lot of stock footage of military things doing military things, we get to the town where Strange Occurrences are Occurring. Television sets, for example, are losing their reception. In 1953. Surely that meant UFOs.

Eventually we get some people who say they saw some guy in a scuba outfit. Fifteen minutes into the film, we finally see the phantom:

So it was described by a frightened townsperson. Oh the horror the audience must have felt when they realized they'd seen this soon. Could they stand the suspense? Please don't make us see this please don't

Of course, any police office would have a poster like this:

It can be found on the Internet, because of course it can be found on the Internet.


You could order them from a magazine. See if you can detect the key words that describe the difference between now and then:

That's right. "Swell for Classrooms."

Anyway, it's so damned dull. Twenty-five minutes in, nothing but guys sitting around talking about what other people have seen, and speculating about it. But finally we see him on a roof - and it's terrifying! LOOK! IT'S THE PHANTOM!

They must have bene running up and down the aisles passing out smelling salts after that.

Eventually he takes off his space suit, and we see he's invisible. If you know what I mean.


At this point you might be thinking: does he come in peace? Is he an interplanetary traveler in need of assistance who possesses great insight and wisdom, and our crude, unthinking ways have turned on him and cast him out, when we could have learned so much?

I don't know. The movie never gets into that. He can't breath our air or communicate, so he dies.

Like all advanced species, death is followed by immediate time-lapse decomposition. The movie is dull and useless, but I bring it up to remind you how even the worst bad movie these days is more visually sophisticated, and to point out a few names:


A real pro, this guy.

Yes. Billy Wilder's brother. Oh the family Christmases they must have had.

He had his 21-year old son help him with the scripts.

Then there's this familiar name:

The four words that said Saturday Morning cartoons with the Roadrunner, except not as much fun because the music was scored for, like, three instruments, and one of them was apparently a bass kazoo. Wikipedia: "va's music was markedly different from that of Franklyn and previous composer Carl Stalling, with a tendency towards atonality." Yeah.

The rest of the also-rans:

The Internet assures us that Dr. Wyatt, Rudolph Anders, was the voice of the Taster's Choice commercials in the 60s and 70s. BUT: he had :a supporting role as Dr. Arthur Coleman in the final episode of the original Star Trek television series, "Turnabout Intruder." Ahhh. There's our Trek connection. It's been a while. Good to finally make one again.

Really justifies all the time we spent on this, eh?

That'll do! See you around. Good to be back in the old Bleat Groove.



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