Danny Heitman At Random: A.C. unit times out at kickoff

We’ve had four air conditioning breakdowns in our household over the years, and they’ve each happened at interesting times.

More than a decade and a half ago, we suffered our first a.c. failure as our house filled with relatives one July Sunday to celebrate my infant daughter’s christening. Among our family pictures from that weekend is a snapshot of our baby braving the heat of the den in nothing but a diaper. Everyone else grudgingly agreed to remain clothed, although the assortment of aunts and uncles wilting near the punch bowl made me wonder if a day set aside for baptism would end up with a recitation of the Last Rites.

We had our second a.c. breakdown many years later, on a muggy Thanksgiving Day as the house once again swelled with visitors. I stayed cool by eating five servings of pie on the porch.

Our air conditioning’s third failure occurred on my wedding anniversary. Remembering the for-better-or-for-worse clause of our marital contract, my wife and I escaped to a restaurant for dinner, happy to eat anything as long as we could enjoy our entrees at a climate-controlled table.

All of this came to mind again last weekend, when our air conditioning unit logged its fourth mishap an hour before the kick-off of the LSU-UAB football game. Returning from the supermarket, I felt air as warm as car exhaust seeping from the ceiling registers as I dropped my grocery bags on the counter.

I knew that asking my repairman for help during an LSU game would be almost as dire as recruiting him to work on Christmas morning. J.J., our faithful fix-it guy, agreed to bail us out, although he had planned to grill steaks and be in his recliner by the start of the first quarter.

Despite his generous offer, we decided to delay the repair until the next morning. A second air conditioning unit near the back of our house would, I reckoned, keep the rooms tolerable overnight.

The limited a.c. made me appreciate the evening’s first hint of autumn even more. I woke up early on Sunday, pleased to find mild weather outside as I trimmed some azaleas near the compressor so that J.J. could work more easily. In the same way that some people self-consciously clean a house before a maid arrives, I often tidy up a work area for a repairman — a small tip of the hat, I guess, toward the skilled hands that keep my life in order.

Pruning the shrubs and accumulating a mound of limbs to haul to the curb, I noticed that I hadn’t broken a sweat while weaving my hedge clippers through the branches. The chore made me think with pleasure of future fall weekends when other yard jobs will no longer be a test of endurance.

Our air conditioning is at full tilt again, and I’m grateful to hear the hum of the compressor while I sit on the couch. But I find myself daydreaming of days at the kite-tail of a closing calendar, when we won’t need air conditioning at all.