[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published July 31, 2019] ©2019
After thirty-two years, Olof and I have changed sides of our bed. The result is that whenever we go to turn on a bedside light or reach for our phones in the dark, we end up thwacking the other one in the head. Who knew that right and left bedded-ness, like right and left handedness, is such an ingrained trait?
Seriously, somebody could get injured here. There are, of course, those people who might say, “um, so have you ever considered changing back again?”
Nope! I’ve lived in my house for 46 years now, purchased by my first husband and me in 1973. For the first 43 years, it always seemed like there were two hot weeks in August which could be easily tolerated by turning on our ceiling fan at night. But the summer and fall of 2016 seemed to go on forever, and 2017 and then 2018 were even worse. Even adding some standing column fans, we were just baking in our bedroom. Was extended excessive heat now going to be the weather pattern?
I confess that during the summer of 2018, Olof and I began suffering from severe AC Envy. Our lovely neighbors and dear friends had finally finished a grueling six-months-turned-two-year remodel that left them suffering from PTSD and us as fluent Spanish speakers after two solid years of listening to the Tijuana radio station. We were thrilled to think that there would be silence again, that we’d be able to hear birds chirp instead of skill saws and jack hammers.
So imagine our surprise when all the construction workers had finally gone away, the Contractor From Hell had decamped, and our traumatized neighbors had moved into their home, that we began hearing what sounded like a jet engine. What could this be?
And then it hit me: it was an air conditioner. And sure enough, peering over our fence, there it was, right under our windows: a four-by-four by-four foot HVAC unit. In their hermetically-sealed home, they couldn’t hear it. But we sure could.
Let me just say that this was not their fault. It was their contractor’s fault. It’s one thing to suffer through a neighbor’s remodel project. You know it’s time limited. And in our case, we got to acquire a foreign language. But an air conditioner is forever.
I thought about asking them to build an enclosure around it. This would hopefully help block the noise but also give me a place to kidnap and incarcerate the contractor who knew perfectly well what a bad placement this was but didn’t care. I envisioned him slowly perishing of hunger and thirst and decibility. It gave me great pleasure.
I will confess, however, that as the summer progressed, the air conditioner bothered me less and less. Most of the time it was just background noise. But it reminded me constantly that inside that beautiful new house, our neighbors were blissfully cool, while we were not.
I finally said to Olof last fall that before summer of 2019, we needed to have a window air conditioning unit in our bedroom.
Olof couldn’t help but observe that while we both found our bedroom unbearably hot, I was even more impacted by it than he. So it made more sense for me to be on the side of the bed (currently his) that was closer to the window and would get the most benefit from the unit. By the time I was cooled, he’d be a Swede-sicle. (Actually, he’s German but that doesn’t work as well semantically.)
So after the handyman came and wrestled the unit into the window, Olof set about swapping our reading lights (he likes LED reading lights, I like incandescent) and other bedside accoutrements (my books, his e-reader.)
I have to say that both of us were genuinely surprised at how truly disorienting it was to be sleeping on the other side of the bed than we’re used to. I guess there’s a certain amount of muscle memory built up over time that allows one to be three-quarters asleep but reach over in the dark and automatically find a lamp switch without knocking the thing over. The question is: how long is it going to take the other arm to get with the new program?
But if we found it disorienting, our dog, Lily, was truly distressed. She sleeps in our bed at night and has marked out her sleeping space based on Olof’s being nine inches taller than I am. If she wants any foot space on the bed, she’s had to change sides too. And let me tell you, she is not happy about it.
Now that we have an actual air conditioner in our bedroom, the summer has thus far been unseasonably cool. Life just works like that. But hopefully we can survive to Thanksgiving without either of us giving the other a concussion.