Calculating the Cost of Forgetfulness

Written by Ralph E. Shaffer

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

At 88, I've finally become an absent-minded professor - although I stopped professing long ago. An incident Sunday demonstrated my forgetfulness.

We've been experiencing a heatwave in Southern California, coming a little earlier this year. My central air conditioner, which is over 40 years old - twice the usual life expectancy - was serviced in May. As usual, I asked the technician to "give me five more years." I don't want to buy another AC, and leave that to the next owner of this house my wife and I built 55 years ago. So far, I've kept getting those extra five years.

This year the technician shook his head, mentioned something about the motor, the condenser, rust and some other potentially fatal items, but he got it running and it worked on the few days in May and June that we needed to use it.

Until last Sunday. It was 100 here in Covina, a suburb of Los Angeles. But the AC kept the house cool until mid-afternoon. Then we noticed the system was blowing hot air, not cool, into each room. The cooling apparatus had failed but the fan was still pumping air into each room, but it was hot air from the attic, not cool air from the AC.

I fiddled with the thermostat, turned the system off for a while and then back on, but all we got was hot air. So I turned it off permanently and called the company that services the unit and left a message.

Monday morning at 8 the agent called back and set up an appointment for that afternoon. Promptly at 2, the tech arrived and for the next two hours he doctored the machine. The problem was in the motor. It was no longer working. The choice was to replace that or replace the entire unit, which might be wise since all the other parts were so old, I opted for the $500 motor replacement.

As the tech left, the house was already cooling down, and since this was the only major repair in over 40 years - and I could afford it - it was money well spent. Now I'll probably get my "five more years" and the next owner can deal with the total replacement.

That evening my son called, as he sometimes does, on is way home from work. He mentioned the weather and I told him that my AC had failed.

"Oh, the electric company turned off your power to the AC. They did that a few times last year, didn't they?"

Yes they did, because for several years I've benefited from a rebate plan that lets the company turn off the AC during peak power usage periods. Saves me a bundle. And each summer I anticipate they'll turn it off when I hear the temp will be near 100, so I cool the house down and usually get through the power outage pretty well.

But I had forgotten that I was in the company's summer discount plan. Good grief, maybe the motor hadn't failed at all. The reason it wouldn't work might have been that the power was off to the AC. I may have just squandered two years of summer discount savings on a motor I didn't need.

I'll never know if the electric company turned off the power Sunday afternoon. But I do know that forgetfulness can sometimes be very costly.

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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