It’s above 90 degrees here today and humid in proportion. That must be what made me remember what it was like when I was small, when we had only one window unit air conditioner to cool as much of the house as possible.
For some reason, Mother and Daddy put it in the dining room, which was in the middle of the house on Ridgeway Drive. I guess the theory was that the air would spread out and cool the living room and the bedrooms. Unfortunately it was not powerful enough to do that, so one of my early summer memories is sleeping with a circulating fan blowing on me. The hum of that heavy metal fan and the sweep of air as it turned from side to side soothed me to sleep many a night.
Window unit air conditioners happily left my adult life until I moved to New York in the ’80s. I rented a fifth-floor apartment without central air, so once again I was in thrall to a window unit. I had actually moved one with me from Atlanta which my uncle gave me–I don’t recall when I went and picked it up in Tennessee, but undeniably it moved to New York with me and was put in the window by the movers. It was in a metal case, somewhat elderly, and extremely heavy.
It didn’t have a bracket, so I depended on the window and a few sticks of wood wedged in the sash to hold it in place. This worked for a few weeks, but the air conditioner began to drip on the bedroom floor, which did not do the cheap wood parquet any good. One towel per day was not enough to absorb the moisture. Clever girl that I was, I thought I could fix this single-handed.
I took the wedges out and took hold of the air conditioner to shift it in the window. It was much heavier than I thought and began to fall out the window. I grabbed it. The metal casing sliced the tips of the fingers on my left hand. Automatically, I stomped on the air conditioner’s electric cord. The good news was, the air conditioner hung from the window and did not fall. The bad news was, I obviously could not pull it back in.
I looked out the window. There were unit air conditioners in all the windows directly below mine on the fifth floor, from the fourth to the ground. Immediately beyond the line of air conditioners was the parking lot. I knew what I had to do. I unplugged the air conditioner, still standing on the cord, and wrapped the damp towel around the cord. Then I swung the cord to one side and let go.
The air conditioner fell in an arc, landing in the grass just next to the parking lot. It did not graze any other air conditioners or take out any cars. I was exhausted with relief. I called the security guard and told him what I’d done. When he stopped laughing, he said they would clean it up the next day.
Then I realized I was bleeding all over the place. I knocked on my neighbor’s door and assured her I wasn’t dying despite the blood. Hands and heads bleed a lot. My neighbor took me to an emergency room. Fortunately the cuts were not deep, although the process of cleaning them was not pleasant. I have a little scar on my thumb to this day.
The next day I called my friend Kathy in Atlanta to report my adventure. She laughed until she coughed for breath. For months after that when we spoke, she would ask, “Thrown any small appliances out the window this week? Not even a toaster?”