At about 4:15 this morning I was awakened by a loud popping and fizzing noise, a bright flare of light, and the smell of ozone and burning plastic.
It so happens that, from where my head rested on my pillow facing the open bedroom door, I had a direct line-of-sight to the event. It brought me to full alertness, so that I instantly knew what was happening and where. The where was the hall closet where my apartment's central air conditioning unit lives. The what was an electrical fire.
I bolted out of bed and gingerly opened the closet door (testing it for heat first). As I suspected, the air conditioner's water pump was in flames. Which I then blew out like the candles on a birthday cake. It's a good thing that worked, because I don't remember where I stashed my fire extinguisher...
When I told my mother about this later on, she said, "Thank God you woke up." This is true, but I hardly could have slept through it under the circumstances. I am more thankful that it happened at 4:15 a.m., rather than a couple hours later, when I would not have been there. It was timed perfectly, in fact, so that I had time to call in an emergency maintenance request and move my cats and their things into the bedroom, so they would be out of the way when the repairman came by. I was going back to work for my first office day in over a week, and in the event I wasn't even late. If it had happened earlier, I would have lost more sleep than I could afford. Later, and my cats would be crispy critters along with everything I own, and possibly the neighbors too.
This was the latest development in an air conditioning crisis at my home. First the hose channeling condensation water to the pump came unstuck and sprayed water all over the closet, soaking into a large swath of carpet in my hallway and into the spare bedroom before I had a chance to stop it. Then, several days later, it stopped cooling altogether, leaving me sweating through all my clothes, bed sheets, pillows, upholstery, the crust of the earth, etc. until I couldn't get two hours of sleep in a night. When I finally got a repairman to look at my AC, it took him a while to figure out that the problem was a bad water pump. And so it was a brand new water pump, installed less than twelve hours earlier, that blew up before my eyes at 4:15 this morning.
Believe it or not, my first thought after shutting down the AC and making sure the fire was well and truly out, was: "Ye gods! Not another day without climate control!"
It's been a bad time, lately, to be living in St. Louis without AC. Even with three ceiling fans and the central air circulation fan blowing full blast, the temperature in my apartment never went below 80 and the humidity was miserable. I drank through every liquid in my apartment in record time. Then, for reasons possibly related to sleep deprivation and dehydration, I started suffering headaches and constipation. Meanwhile, my toilet was also out of whack (a valve issue that I didn't have the tools to fix). All this, naturally, went down during a work-at-home week when I had nowhere better to be. That's just the way the world rolls around me.
So when I preached yesterday, I was holding myself together with a Starbucks double-shot and a 20-ounce Coke Zero, bought during an early-Sunday-morning Walgreens run to buy shaving supplies (because my electric shaver also picked that morning to die). And I spent most of today trying to remember how to be productive after a week of down-time, while (a) worrying about my apartment, (b) whimpering with headache pain, and (c) repeatedly rushing to the head to collect on a debt from my Indian-giver bowel.
I finally pushed out something like a softball at about 1:30 this afternoon, after straining so hard that I gave myself a nosebleed. For a few minutes following this heroic effort, I was so drained that I could scarcely stand upright without shaking. I fortified myself with beef broth and a large mug of black coffee, wrapped up my day's work and returned home to find that nothing had been done about my AC. The maintenance guy couldn't get into my apartment all day due to a mix-up at the front office.
When he did come, he revealed that the brand new water pump he had just installed yesterday was wired for a 110 volt power supply, but the part they were supposed to order was wired for 220. Since he had assumed his shop had the part they were supposed to have (I guess all the apartments in the complex use the same kind), he hadn't bothered to look closer and adjust the wiring to suit. So the flame-out was the result of 220 volts going through a 110-volt electric pump, which happened to be overflowing at the time (?!), causing an electrical short--and POOF! Flames. The casing on the old "new" pump was impressively melted.
Whoa. There, but for the grace of God, goeth my entire building and every soul, stick, sock, sack, kit, cat, and wife in it. An hour and a half later, and I might have met fire engines rolling from the opposite direction as I did the uphill city slolem toward Interstate 64. I wouldn't have known what it had to do with me until after dinner. Such a happy unbirthday gift it was, then, that I was there to blow out the candles before they became an inferno. And to think that I thought, at 4:15 a.m., that I was having a bad day! How stupid of me! It was actually OK until I brought forth my firstborn (pictured here)...
Make a wish, self! All right... I wish it was Friday!