Return to North to Alaska

Bad Knees and Bifocals

14 May 2005

Georgetown TX

I just finished, sort of, one of the most tedious jobs yet devised by the fertile mind of man. Right up there with picking cotton, or writing machine code. I spent several eons straightening out the radiator fins on the air conditioner of my trailer. They were mostly flattened by a hailstorm 3 years ago.

Three years ago? I know.

But I seldom use the AC, preferring to hook up and seek cooler climes. Or altitude. This summer I've been delayed, and for the last two weeks I've used the AC every day. Which turned on a light in that little-used part of my brain that deals with nagging. (It's somewhere on the right side, toward the back.) The resulting static drove me to the roof of the trailer, where I saw many things best left unseen. Mold growing all over the rubber, for instance. Small leaves slowly turning to sod in the gutters. Bird droppings. A couple of rips where low hanging limbs dragged across the Dicor. And, of course, the offending fins.

I was a happy man before I owned a ladder.

I repaired the rips with Dicor patch, after windexing the area. Good enough. Well, now I can't wash it until the Dicor sets, so I got out of that for today. The radiator fins look like a metal wall where the hail hammered them. Amazing it cools at all.

Like any right-thinking American, I just naturally assume there has to be a special tool that will make short work of this. Some sort of comb. Some sort of "labor-saving device." That's the American Way: a pill for every ailment, a tool for every job, and maybe even a particular lure for every single fish. Time to go shopping.

I tried Home Depot. No luck. I tried the RV outlet. No dice, but they suggested a local air conditioning supply. I finally found it, back among a warren of warehouses north of the high school.

First thing the kid behind the counter asked me was "What's the density?"


"How many fins per inch ?"


Turns out there's 6 or 7 different types of tool for this. Or I could buy the "multi-tool". I held it in my hand. Twelve bucks. A handle and six tips.

"How well does this work?"

"Not very well, really," he said. "People try to force it. If you're not careful, you'll rip the fins right off the coils. They're just thin metal. These do better if the fins aren't bent too much."

"Mine are flat. How do I fix that?"

"I'd use a dull knife blade, or a small screwdriver. It takes time. It ain't gonna be perfect."

The kid doesn't care if he sells me this thing or not. I like that. I left it on the shelf.

Nearly two hours blown. But time spent shopping isn't supposed to count. It's kind of like practice swings. You just edit it out. My whole life is full of stuff like that. Take out for sleep, meals, and practice swings, and I'm really only 6 years old.

Back to the driveway. Up on the roof, carrying my trusty Swiss Army knife. Bottle opener indeed. I should have known this was an Air Conditioner Battered Fin Straightener. Why don't they just tell you these things? It sure would've saved me a lot of gas.

Now don't spread it around, but I'm getting to the ...ah... well... Age ... That's it, I'm getting to the Age, when climbing up on a roof brings on intimations of mortality. But I'm not so old yet that I'll pay somebody else to do it. Too tight to live, too dumb to die. It's just an embarrassing stage you go through, I guess. Like being a teenager, with half the ignorance and somewhat fewer zits.

I tried kneeling down in front of the fins. Not good. Made me feel like a supplicant. And besides, my knees ached. I tried sitting. Better on the knees, but I still kept having to bob my head up and down to see what I was accomplishing. Not all that much, actually. I'm going to dream of thin metal plates tonight.

Bad knees and bifocals make you slow. So why are the years rushing by?

Finally I figured out this was just practice for Purgatory, so I might as well get comfortable. What worked best was lying on my left side and flicking the little fins up about a square inch at a time, working across the surface.

I don't know how long it took. Decades perhaps, in air conditioner years. But when I came to, outside the Zone, the sun still hadn't set. So maybe it wasn't so long after all.

Like the kid promised, it ain't perfect. But it's done. Tomorrow's Sunday. Day of Rest.

Weather's iffy. Scattered thunderstorms.

Chance of hail.

Bob, gradually getting ready.

Return to Around the Campfire
Comments are welcome in the rec.outdoors.rv-travel newsgroup,
or to
© Copyright 2003-2008 Bob Giddings, All Rights Reserved
Webspace provided by Arcata Pet Supplies