HVAC Note:
Knocks at Midnight
17 July 2018

Almost at the end of the afternoon, the doorbell rang. It was, as I expected, the super. “I almost forgot about you,” he said, waving a penlight.

Happily, his next words were, “There’s no complaint, I think the leaking stopped.” Then he went into the bedroom to confirm this. His visit lasted less than three minutes.

Last night was another story. We were watching a video; it was somewhere between ten-thirty and eleven. There was a knock at the door. The knocker was a bald man wearing a T-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops. I presently recognized him as the building superintendent, and began to spiral into anxiety.

The air-conditioner in our bedroom, it seemed, was leaking. And not just leaking, but leaking onto the bed of the tenant on the third floor. I saw at once that we faced the prospect of trying to sleep through a very hot night with nothing but the fan to cool us. And that was just the immediate prospect. 

The super removed the facing panel from the HVAC unit. After that, it was all surprises. He seemed to know what he was doing, but I certainly didn’t. I fetched him jugs of water, which he emptied into various places. I brought him paper towels, to wipe off a slimy grille (if that’s what it was; all I saw was the slime, surprisingly venerable-looking in a unit that was new when we moved in a few years ago). He lugged up a vacuum cleaner and applied its hose to several areas. He never said “Aha!” or anything else to signify that he had discovered the cause of the leak, much less dealt with it. But he seemed to conclude that the leaking had stopped. He would come back in the morning to make sure.

Just when I’d thought there must be no problem, he showed up to tell me that there was no problem. All morning I’d worried, for nothing.

Don’t get me wrong, but the super comes from a part of the world where midnight knocks used to be part of everyday life. He was apologetic about the disturbance, assuring us that there was no way to know about the leak, and he thanked us for letting him in. But I needed a pill and an extra nightcap. 

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