Saying, “don’t worry” to a person with OCD is like saying “don’t get wet” to a fish.
I was just trying to do the right thing.
But no good deed goes unpunished.
My late mother’s window air conditioner had been sitting in my bedroom closet since Mike and I had a huge fight over installing it in during an intense heat wave in 2012, I think.
After I gave up fighting about installing it according to the instructions, Mike must have shoved it back into into the closet, or else (more likely) I did. Mike went back to sitting on the deck in his bathing suit, pouring buckets of cold water over his head. I went back to my Mom’s house, which had central air (the window unit must have been for when her AC was being serviced).
I took it out last weekend, thinking I’d try again to install it.
It wasn’t as complicated as it seemed back when Mike and I were screaming at each other. But it was so heavy, and so old, I just didn’t see the point of trying to use it. Why use the extra electricity when we’ve survived without AC for 22 years, through several blazingly hot summers? Plus, the coolants in AC are bad for the environment. AC is one of the reasons we need AC. Vicious circle.
I called the local junkyard and asked if they’d take it. Regular recycling places don’t, because of the refrigerants that are supposed to be drained by someone authorized to do it. But the junkyard said yes. So if they said yes, they must be allowed to deal with the refrigerants, right?
I muscled the thing down the stairs and made it to the back of the Subaru, right before I would have dropped it on my foot. Lucky.
Five minutes to the junkyard. And there at the front gate was a huge sign saying they wouldn’t take anything with refrigerant in it unless it had been drained. Rats.
I drove the car up onto the scale. I told the guy in the trailer through the little sliding window that I had called, but (gesturing to the sign) the air conditioner still had refrigerant in it, as far as I knew.
“Don’t worry about it. We’ll take care of it,” he said.
Ummmm, OK. If you say so.
I drove down off the scale to “the guy in the hardhat” who was supposed to tell me what to do. He waved me to a stop, popped open the back, and said, “this thing here?”
“Yes, it’s an air conditioner, but it still has refrigerant in it as far as I know.”
“We’ll take care of it.”
I waited for a huge semi to clear the scale, and drove back up. I asked trailer guy again about draining the refrigerant.
“Don’t worry. We’ll take care of it.”
“But you’ll do it the right way, I mean, in an environmentally responsible way, right?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
That is not the same as “yes.”
He then told me to go park out front and come back to get the $3 they’d pay me.
Between hacking coughs, trailer guy shoved a form at me through his plexiglass window. He then plugged the cut-out at the base of his window with a roll of paper towels. This, I suppose, was his way of avoiding contagion. Between hacking coughs.
Most people just sign forms shoved at them and skeedaddle. Nobody reads them.
I read forms. But I thought this was just a receipt. I signed it.
Then I read it.
It said I attested that the refrigerant had been drained, or had leaked previously, or that I had a contract with the junkyard within the past two years. I didn’t check any of those boxes. The two year line had a parenthetical that said, “if nothing checked presumed checked.” But which was presumed? The contract with the junkyard? Or that the refrigerant was drained?
I asked the guy about it.
“Don’t worry. We do this all the time. We’ll take care of it.”
Exactly how, though?
Worrying is what I do.
Since Mike died, I’ve tried to let more worries go. I’ve realized there are things I can’t change, and stuff I can’t do anything about, especially other people’s behavior.
They said they’d take it, and “take care of it,”
But the sign? Why did they take the air conditioner after I told them it hadn’t been drained?
I’ll never know. I’ll have to live with that, and with the haunting uncertainty about the interpretation of the form I signed, and my lingering anxiety about the potential consequences.
Planning to distract myself with another hot night of binge-watching The Last Kingdom, I remain,
Your overheated, unairconditioned, dammit-just-let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may,