Clouds of cool, pillows of refreshment

There was something I was waiting for last night and I just couldn’t fall asleep because of the waiting for it. I wondered what it was that had me so expectant and then it hit me.

When my mother remarried for the first time after my father died, she married a man much older than herself, one who had been in the Navy. His name was Elmer, Elmer *Stinpinchky.

He always had (and I don’t think this a “Navy guy” state of mind — just his own parsimonious personality) special little money-saving things for the whole family to do. Like, he wanted us all to take “Navy” showers (a special routine he learned in — you guessed it, the Navy). That’s where you get in the shower, turn on the water and get wet and then turn off the water. With the water off, you soap up. After thoroughly soaping and washing, you turn the water back on and rinse. Then you turn the water off — immediately — and get out.

My younger brother and I constantly flouted this shower rule and Elmer, in turn, constantly berated us bitterly about it. He habitually harassed us about it because, guess what? He was listening at the door to gauge our compliance. I know, right? Pretty creepy. My mother asked us to comply with his rules and we always assured her we would and probably had every intention of obeying our mother — until confronted with the actuality.

To this day I take v-e-r-y long showers.

Well, his concerns for household expenditures extended to every aspect of daily living and, of course, to the running of the air-conditioning. We lived in Florida and he refused to run the air-conditioning during the day (when it was the hottest). At night he set the temperature for a delightfully refreshing 80 degrees Fahrenheit. My younger brother and I hated this with a passion. Elmer’s arbitrary control of the cool air was a challenge to us — a cannon shot over the prow of our childhood sense of right. He pricked us to our very cores and provoked us to rebel by making us lie in the sweltering heat waiting for the air-conditioning to come on so that we could fall asleep to its comforting song.

The fact that he had very keen hearing, was a light sleeper and could immediately pounce on any air-conditioning infractions didn’t deter us once he had whipped our hearts to mutiny. It really became an all-out war with reconnaissance and special missions on our part against his temperature tyranny.

Elmer and my mother would go to bed and as soon as we heard him snoring, I would, or my brother would, creep out into the hall from our respective rooms and adjust the temperature. This would result in, most times, the enemy charging forth from his room and bellowing about what bad kids we were and turning the temp back to what he wanted (oh, and the horror of seeing him flap around in his boxer shorts and t-shirt as he ranted and brandished his fist!). But sometimes, oh sometimes, he would sleep right through long enough for the air-conditioning to whisk us off into dreams on a cloud of cool.

Finally, tiring of the nightly skirmishes, Elmer came upon what he thought was the perfect solution and which, I admit, at first brought bitter defeat into our hearts: A Honeywell TG511A Universal Thermostat Lock Box…


Image courtesy of the Honeywell Company

Product description from the Honeywell site:

“Make sure your temperature settings stay just where they should be with
the Honeywell TG511A universal thermostat lock box. Compatible with a
wide range of thermostats, this lock box protects against unauthorized
temperature changes while still permitting temperature monitoring. It
also shields your thermostat from unintentional damage as well as wear
and tear.”

But we were not deterred indefinitely. We discovered that touching the thermostat was not necessary to triggering the thermostat. A bump against the wall would trigger the mechanism by jostling the delicate spring system by which the arrow indicator maintained its balance. So, once the lock box was installed we all slept the better for it. Elmer could sleep secure with the knowledge that he held the key and we, we could sleep in comfort once his snoring began and the wall had been gently bumped goodnight.

Last night, on the heels of such hot weather I might have mistaken myself for being back in Florida and with humidity licking at the windows, last night I was waiting for the air-conditioning to click on — just like when I was little.

*Last name changed per my mom’s request

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