Here’s what happens when karma loses its cool in a heat wave

Let’s talk about karma for a moment.

And, while we’re on the subject, air-conditioning, too.

About 20 or 25 years ago, we paid a fair amount of money to have central air-conditioning added to our house. I don’t recall how much it cost—who keeps receipts?—but it couldn’t have been cheap.

People in Long Beach who don’t have air-conditioning invariably maintain that you don’t really need it because of the sweet ocean breeze that maintains a constant and pleasant 72-degrees here.

That is, until we have the inevitable brutal heat wave, such as the one we’ve been experiencing of late. Then comes the constant complaining about the woes and suffering from the heat. The inability to sleep, distasteful discussions about sweating, just the all-around torture of unendurable towering temperatures.

That’s where I come in, with the helpful suggestion that they should get an air-conditioner. I’m always telling people that when it gets above 90 degrees, I turn my thermostat down to the mid-50s, start a fire in the fireplace and cuddle up beneath the warm embrace of a pile of down comforters. It’s a joke, of course, but it has the desired effect.

To be clear, I tend to limit my mock-gloating to my co-workers. I don’t roam around the city looking for people who are considerably less fortunate than I am and urge them to spend $10,000 on an air-conditioner if they’re so uncomfortable in this heat. I’m not a monster.

So I get home on Wednesday and against my better instincts, ask my wife if anything’s going on. She tells me she needs to show me the spare bedroom, which isn’t actually functioning as a bedroom now, but more as a place to put stuff for a while before throwing it out, although it does contain a few of my guitars and a chair she’s had reupholstered.

So I follow her into the spare bedroom, which suddenly looks like a waterpark. Water is cascading from the ceiling, much of it onto the reupholstered chair, several floorboards have become swollen from the water and have bowed and popped loose, the paint on one wall is  blistered and bubbling. It’s like people had been having a water balloon fight or a cannonball contest in the room. I’m thinking the entire house has to be rebuilt; nothing is salvageable.

I grab a ladder and scamper up into the crawl space where the AC unit is and water is streaming from a PVC pipe joint. I holler down for a pot and my wife brings back a pretty big one, maybe the size of something you could boil a turkey in. I politely ask her for a smaller one, which she brings and I put it under the leak. Problem solved!

A half hour later, the pot is overflowing and it begins to dawn on me that maybe I should go ahead and turn off the air-conditioner.

I call my air-conditioning guy who doesn’t answer and his mailbox is full. I call up my plumbing guy, because pipes and water seem to be something in his wheelhouse, but he apologizes and says he’s not an air-conditioner expert, but he gives me the number of a guy who can fix it. I call him and he’s going to swing by later.

After that, there’ll be teams of flooring installers, plasterers, painters and maybe a nice, crooked contractor who, like one I had hired, will come up with refreshing new and innovative ideas to literally steal money from me.

Last night, I dragged a fan into the bedroom where it wasn’t too bad. There was enough residual coolness from the now-busted AC, coupled with the sweet ocean breeze wafting from the Pacific just 36 blocks away, to keep things fairly comfortable for me and my wife through the night.

And as I drifted off, I was thinking about how I was just joking with my colleagues about how I turned my thermostat to Arctic Region. I was only joking. When did karma start having a lousy sense of humor and become so vindictive?

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.
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