One Hundred Bucks and a Mission to Beat the Summer Heat

by Spenser Davis

When I first moved to Seattle in 2013, I scoffed at those complaining about the summer heat. We arrived at the tail end of that summer, so we barely experienced any of the real heat that year. But being from Texas, I felt like Bane in The Dark Knight Rises: “You merely adopted the heat, but I was born in it, molded by it.” It actually gets cool at night during Seattle summers, and the temperature never crosses the 100-degree line. I lived in that for 23 years, during some of which I drove a car with no air conditioning, so it felt great to escape that heat and live in a place where the summer was pleasant.

But then, the summer of 2014 rolled around: Our first full summer in Seattle. I don’t think I’m being dramatic when I say that I was dead wrong about my ability to handle the heat. Sure, I’ve endured many summers that were so hot, we weren’t even allowed to play outside for more than 15 minutes at a time. But even in the years that my car’s air conditioning failed me, I was going from point A to point B, both being extremely cooled buildings. The problem with summers in Seattle, is that even though the temperature rarely goes above 85, almost all residential (and many smaller commercial) buildings have no large-scale air conditioning. We live on the sixth floor of a very modern apartment building that faces the rising sun every morning. The dinky little screen door that helps keep the apartment regulated for most of the year becomes just another way for the sun to heat up our apartment like a giant oven every morning.

The summer of 2014 melted any trace of weather smugness that had been building over the previous year, and the quest to cool down became my first priority. The lack of an actual window prevented the use of one of those window units that I guess everyone in New York has or something. The use of a portable unit first popped into our minds then, but we couldn’t find a good deal and weren’t sure if it would even work with our sliding glass/screen door setup. So that summer was one of DIY cooling solutions. We bought extra fans. We ate endless amounts of Otter Pops. At one point, full-on desperation led to the building of one of these (spoiler alert: it didn’t work). We sweated our way to the finish line, welcoming the delightful Pacific Northwest autumn with open arms.

We promptly forgot about our misery. Months passed and it started to get hot again, and we realized that we had done nothing to prepare for it. We began to trawl Craigslist, waiting and searching for something that could be reasonable both for our space and for our wallets. My days, which are normally filled with freelance writing projects, started to fill with constant Craigslist searches, emails, and frantic Google searches in the hopes of finding reliable reviews of the items I had found. Nearly all of the reasonable results were in one of three categories: 1) very far away, 2) already sold, 3) no response from seller. This went on for days — weeks. Every time I started to hop in the car to drive to random houses across town (or in a couple cases, across the state), an email or text would pop in: “Sorry, it’s been sold.” Anger. Frustration. More sweating.

Even though we’re far from where we’d like to be financially, good decisions and new jobs and increased freelance work have put us in a better spot than where we were last summer. Still, spending $300 or more on an appliance that would only be used for three or four months annoyed me, no matter how much more comfortable it would make me. But just as I started to overcome that mindset (the same mindset that gets annoyed when paying a lot for things like car repairs), the nonexistent Seattle clouds opened up before us: a brand new Craigslist listing for a portable air conditioning unit comparable to what we had been looking for, and for only $100. The kicker: it was right down the street from us. We frantically called the guy, who was more than happy to tell us that we could get it as soon as possible.

After getting there and checking the unit out, I was more than happy to hand over the cash. Sure, we would need to spend a little more to make it fit our weird door situation. Sure, our electricity bill will probably be painfully larger than usual during these summer months. But damn, I’ve never been more satisfied to blow $100 all at once.

Spenser Davis is a freelance media and culture writer based in Seattle, by way of California and Texas.

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