To Build a Fire. And the Flux Capacitor

Living like it’s 1912 isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Temperature in my bedroom this morning: 89

Number of times I saw “Back to the Future” the first month it was released: 3

Etta James CDs my father-in-law bought to remember this trip to America: 1

I remember how innocent I was two days ago. How I laughed in the face of 105 degree temperatures.

I am a changed woman.

On the last evening that my parents-in-law were here in America, our upstairs air conditioner broke. It was the record-setting heat day where the thermometer topped 105, and at 5 p.m., a bedroom that’s 93 isn’t so fun: my shower didn’t take.

We decided my in-laws would sleep on a mattress in the den downstairs, because they are a.) our guests and b.) less acclimated to heat. Also, we didn’t want them to hear us writhing and moaning in despair.

At my kids’ bedtime, we sat on my bed, not touching, and prepared to read together.

My daughter said, “I’m afraid I’ll suffocate tonight.” I explained that just getting really hot wouldn’t make you suffocate.

But I didn’t totally buy it. My breath was starting to… well, I couldn’t… no air. I started wondering if we might all suffocate, and my in-laws would find us in the morning, lying in our pools of sweat.

But I think I convinced my daughter.

So we read a couple of chapters of “Divergent,” just a little dystopic bedtime story about factions and violence and war. No biggie.

I finished reading, and we all sat there, the heat heavy all around us.

I might have screamed, “Don’t touch me!” I’m not proud of it.

“You know, I think it’s getting cooler in here,” my daughter said, her voice slow and contemplative.

That’s when I started to worry. Well, started to worry again.

Back in middle school, we read the short story, “To Build a Fire.” As the main character is freezing to death, he imagines he is getting warmer. He can feel the heat from the fire.

It haunted me for years, even though the chance of me getting stuck in a blizzard in suburban Atlanta were about the same as, well, a snowball’s chance in H-E-double-hockey-sticks.

Now my daughter was imagining the air was cooling down when it had actually gone up a degree.

We were doomed.

Both kids fell asleep quickly in their beds, spread-eagled with minimal clothing.

My husband and I consulted each other thoughtfully requested each other’s opinions argued heatedly about whether we should open the windows or leave them closed.

Good news! I won! Windows open!

My husband fell asleep within 2.2 seconds. I, however, lay awake. Each time I would start to drift off, I heard a


I wondered if it was a really stupid roach that had gotten in through the gap at the side of the screen. Or maybe the ceiling fan was going to fall on me and crush my legs and then I would never run again.

So I got up and looked out the window. My evening had gotten better! Gale force winds! They were blowing the little plastic thingies on the ends of the blinds up against the wall. Oh! That was the rat-a-tat-tat sound!

Pyrrhic victory: I discovered it was the blinds, but now I was up against a tornado.

I swear to you, my three faithful readers, my first thought was that if a tornado hit our house, it would make a really, really good blog post.

Bad news: my husband won. We had to close the windows.

By morning, our house had not blown away, I was starting to hallucinate that the house was getting cooler, and I had drunk about 3 gallons of water. My mouth still felt dry.

And here’s when I tell you the real reason I married my husband: it was not because he looked like Jason Priestly from 90210. It was because he knew how to fix air conditioners for $11.

He discovered the bum part was something like a flux capacitor.  I got a great vision of him and Doc from “Back to the Future” trying to hit 88 miles per hour in a DeLorean.

He said no. It was the capacitor.

He said lots of numbers, blah, blah, blah, big battery thingie, blah blah blah.

I’m still picturing a DeLorean. And preparing to blast into the future.

I might dream about it tonight in my super-cool bedroom. And one day I may write an ode to air conditioning.

29 thoughts on “To Build a Fire. And the Flux Capacitor

  1. jmmcdowell says:

    I feel your pain! Last year our central air started blowing only warm air during a heat wave. It had a leak and lost all its coolant. At least it wasn’t in triple digits when it happened! Can you imagine how bad it would have been if you had to wear the clothes from 1912?

    I remember reading “To Build a Fire,” too. That one sticks with the reader, doesn’t it?

    Glad your husband was able to get the A/C fixed so soon. 🙂

    • annewoodman says:

      Oh, yes, we have had the warm air/no coolant problem before, too. Sigh.

      I would have rocked the clothes from 1912… in England. Where it was cool and rainy. ; )

      Phew. I’m actually looking forward to bed tonight. So divine!

  2. crubin says:

    “…my first thought was that if a tornado hit our house, it would make a really, really good blog post.”—Ha ha! Loved that. I think it’s sign #101 that you’re blogging too much. 🙂

    Having just returned from Las Vegas where the weather was a cool 105-108 degrees, I feel your pain. Well, not really, because I didn’t have to sleep without air conditioning. How uncomfortable that must have been! Definitely hold on to that fixer hubby of yours. 🙂

    • annewoodman says:

      Hope you had fun in Vegas! Loved the shot of your toenails… wish my feet looked so sleek! ; )

      Yes, I guess my husband earned his keep for the day. ; )

      • crubin says:

        Sleek? I think you meant to say “streaked,” as in “Learn to apply self-tanner, woman.” 🙂

        Vegas was great. I’ll share my “take” on it in Monday’s post. 😉

  3. I know exactly what you mean, and am sympathetic, but here, where we often have power outages, with not even a fan to help cool us off, sleeping can sometimes only be had after a victory over the mind. Loved it!

    • annewoodman says:

      I didn’t mean to make light of others’ living situations in any way… I certainly remember growing up (until age 9) without air conditioning in my bedroom. HOT!

      And also, there were several deaths just north of us due to the high winds. Of course, my slight discomfort is so minimal.

      Just funny how we get so comfortable in our own little worlds. It was a good reminder of how lucky I am. ; )

      • My dear, I didn’t mean to scold you. I was only trying to inject a little humorous banter to lighten the load. I know, so often houses aren’t built for that type of heat anymore, and it must be insufferable without it. 🙂

  4. I sometimes sleep without A/C but that’s because Mr. Turn Off Everything In Every Room The Minute Someone Looks Like They Might Vacate The Room TURNED IT OFF.
    Just finished Insurgent – Loved the series! Looking forward to #3. At first I thought Hunger Games might outshine it but it was great.
    Now I spent far too much time in the 102 degree day yesterday, drinking far too much wine, eating far too much mexican food and getting five hours of sleep and am facing a 10 mile run with a friend who is faster than me. You may heat to death, I may run to death. It’s been wonderful to know you.

    • annewoodman says:

      The wine and Mexican food sounds lovely. Hope you’re heading out for your run early enough in the day!!!! We went for a 9-miler on Friday (the 105-degree day), and it was one of our best runs yet! Of course, it wasn’t hot… yet.

      You will have to send out a post-run message so that your fellow bloggers will know you made it back to the living.

  5. Melissa says:

    Being married to a man who can fix things is a definite plus, particularly when it actually works. Glad you are finally cooled off!

  6. Holly says:

    I don’t know how anyone got any sleep! Horrible! That husband of yours definitely earns his keep. I see the Jason Priestly similarity–funny!

  7. 4amWriter says:

    Great post. I think I handle heat well–as long as people around me (i.e., husband) aren’t complaining non-stop about how hot it is. I do believe you had the right idea, just go with the flow, do your reading, try to calmly get to sleep. I have seen my husband break out into a sweat just by talking about how hot he is going to be when we step out of our ACd house or car. He’s a little bit crazy when it comes to heat.

    Anyway, glad everyone made it through the night without suffocating. I read that story too, by the way. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

    • annewoodman says:

      Ha! I think To Build a Fire must have been on every middle school reading list! Some of the most vivid short stories I read at that age have stuck with me all these years. Makes me want to go back and read some of them again.

  8. robincoyle says:

    Why is it that air conditioners work perfectly well until it is scorching outside, and heaters are little efficient machines until it turns 30 below? I swear they are evil and out to get us.

    Stay cool!

  9. David Gentry says:

    You really have a talent for humor writing. I laughed out loud about suffocating. I can just hear Savannah saying that in her 9-year-old serious way.

    Maybe you should write jokes for Jay Leno and the others. I understand that ordinary people send them in, and I think some of the entries get on the air!

  10. David Gentry says:

    This was really funny to read. But not to live through. Super D to the rescue yet again!

  11. vanster101 says:

    yay! i fell asleep before you!!! ha ha ha
    so glad we got it fixed the next day!

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