Friday, June 10, 2011

The War of the Window Unit

Because Washington, DC is built on a swamp (with the fill in remnants of drudging the Potomac River to increase its depth and create a more viable shipping industry for the region) the summer months are a hot, wet, buggy mess. It's one bad combination - the humidity of heaven's waiting room, Florida, and the blurry chemical and exhaust-filled thickness typical of an urban concrete jungle.

For residents, one moment of relief from living in the government’s very own inferno is that most rental properties come complete with air conditioning. This fact came as a delightful surprise when I moved from Chicago to the District in 2005. In Chicago, A/C is found less frequently, and the War of the Window Unit is familiar to Cubs and Sox fans alike. There is some dreaded weekend waiting quietly all spring for all of us when we have to dig those units out from storage and attempt to move, lift and secure the 40 lb beasts into a window space as ill fitting as the best pair of ladies khakis.

The inevitably poor fit results in the use of half of a roll of duct tape, and the MacGyvering of common household items to fill in gaps and to secure the beast for the summer. One of the challenges includes completing this task on a tight rope, or, rather, over a busy street some 2,3 or 4 stories up. Passersby are often blessed with falling lead-tainted paint chips from the windows of century old buildings, stagnant water dripping from the unit’s last use the previous summer, and probably an array of curse words falling from the lips of the installer. Another challenge is finding an appropriately sized item to wedge between the heavy-in-the-rear unit and the window ledge.

Last summer, I helped my girlfriend duct tape a perfectly sized piece of her best Tupperware, an item which was certainly being groomed for the most important role in its plasticine life. Weeks after witnessing her ingenuity, I tried to use the same method, only to find some of my Tupperware was too big, some was too small, a few pieces were too feeble - none was just right. I then had a moment of my own brilliance.

Searching the apartment for an item that could weather the summer weather, and most likely something that would not survive the feat, I remembered the entire drawer I kept of old CD cases and booklets (a collection that for certain is the beginning of a hoarder’s existence). I selected some cases that I could easily sacrifice, duct taped them together and crammed the creation under the weight of my dangerously wobbly air conditioning unit. Perfection. The success of this project is only heightened by the fact that from the street level, its extremely clear that Fiona Apple, All 4 One, and Green Day are working tirelessly day and night to keep pedestrians safe from being crushed by my window unit.

Today on my way to work, I saw from the L a unit held up by two soup cans. Pretty clever.

Have you ever had to fight the War of the Window Unit? Who won?

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