Monday, July 18, 2016

The Square Peg -Keep Your Cool

The Square Peg -Keep Your Cool
© S. Bradley Stoner

Alrighty then. Summer’s here. Yep, the weathermen are telling us what the heat index is on a daily basis. You’ve got to understand that when the actual temperature doesn’t reach 100° F here in South-Central Texas, the news channels don’t feel they’ve done their job properly. They aren’t happy if the temps are in the 90’s. No siree... that might violate that unwritten code about Texas being the biggest and baddest state in the lower forty eight (remember, we lost #1 status when that silly Congress added Alaska as a state. Most Texans agree that they should have counted the population of people and left it a territory. We’re pretty sure they included the moose population in the voting base or it wouldn’t have made it. Congress was controlled by the Dems at the time and they figured, ‘what the heck... more votes for us. Then they got Sarah Palin). But I digress.

The point is, it is heating up and I noticed the air conditioning in my Explorer is taking longer to cool down the old buggy. Well, shoot, you can’t have that. We need our cool, otherwise road rage starts to set in... or so I’m told. Bingo Bob says it’s caused by baked brain syndrome, but what does he know? Personally, I just sweat a lot when my AC isn’t working right, and that makes me downright unpleasant to be around. People avoid me. I know that because a little girl approached me in the grocery store, suddenly wrinkled up her face, shouted, “EWWWW,” made a U-turn and called for her mama. And all I had done was drive six blocks. That was it. I needed to get the AC back up to snuff.

Working on cars is something I used to love. I rebuilt engines and everything. Not any more. When they got rid of carburetors and replaced them with fuel injection controlled by a computer, stuck stupid sensors in every tire, and made it so you had to be some sort of electronics expert to even open the hood, I pretty much gave up on working on my own cars. Still, I’d seen those ads... you know, the ones that ask you why you’re paying hundreds of dollars to have a mechanic fix your AC when you can DO IT YOURSELF. Yep, any fool can do it, and I’m not a fool... at least I don’t think I am.

Well, I checked the Internet to find the best product. I read all of the reviews. I looked it up on I even watched fifteen or twenty YouTube videos showing exactly how to do it... at least fifteen different ways. (Admittedly, it was kind of a slow day and I did have a big glass of iced tea). Long story short (oh, shut up), I went out and bought one of those DIY AC kits and pulled Lizzy into the garage when I got back.

I had just popped the hood when I saw Bob and Duncan coming up the driveway. ‘Oh goody,’ I thought. “Hi guys.”

“Gonna work on the old rattletrap?” Bob asked gleefully.

“Just going to add some refrigerant to my AC,” I replied. “I’ll be done in a minute and I’ll join you then.”

“Hey, you gonna use that stuff they advertise on TV?” Duncan asked.


Despite my attempt to get them to wait outside the garage, both of them crowded in. Now you have to understand what with my shop and storage in the garage, there isn’t a whole lot of wiggle room in there. The old “two’s company, three’s a crowd” rule definitely applies. I told them so.

“Oh, we won’t take up a lot of room,” Bob said cheerily.

“You would be the ‘three’s a crowd,” Bob,” I returned.

“That’s not very hospitable,” he whined.

“I’m not in a hospitable mood,” said I.

“Just back the Explorer up a little,” Duncan said, “it’ll make more room and, heck fire, you don’t need the whole car in here.”

Somehow they didn’t get the message that I neither wanted, nor needed their assistance. Rather than get into a verbal fencing match, however, it was just easier to climb into the cab, turn over the engine, and back up Lizzy a few feet.

“See there,” Bob chirped, “plenty of room.”

“Better turn off the motor,” Duncan called.

“You have to leave it on to add refrigerant,” I replied.

“Oh. Never mind then.”

As I closed the driver’s side door and headed for the front of the car, I noticed Bob edging closer to my roll-about tool chests. “Stay away from those tools, Bob.”

“I just wanted to see what new things you have,” he said defensively. “Hey, when did you get that new drill?”

“Right after you returned my old reliable one with the trigger busted,” I growled.

“Hey, it was old. It just broke. What can I say? I offered you five bucks.”

I ignored him. Five bucks didn’t begin to cover what it would cost to replace my favorite Skil half inch chuck drill. One of these days I’ll get around to fixing it, if it isn’t too far gone after Bob got through with it.

After reading the instructions, with lots of unhelpful hints from the two all-thumbs-would-be-assistants, I cleared the fill tube of air, hooked up the fitting to the low side of the compressor and pressed the trigger. I had to watch the gauge carefully so I didn’t overfill it with refrigerant, so I had to ignore the noises coming from behind me as Bob opened and closed every door on my tool chest. Finally, the gauge read properly in the green. It only took half of one can. I wondered how long the remainder would last in storage. Oh well, deal with that later. I unhooked the coupling, replaced the low side cap and stepped back, bumping into Bob.

Bob jumped about a foot. “Geez... you coulda warned a guy,” he squeaked.

I looked Bob up and down. His pockets seemed a little fuller than they had been when he walked in. I saw a screwdriver handle peeking out of his back pocket and was pretty sure the bulge in his front pocket looked like an open end wrench. “Bob...”


“Step over the work bench and empty your pockets.”

“What for?” he asked, edging toward the door.

“Duncan... you want to cut off his retreat?”

Duncan grinned maliciously. “My pleasure.”

Bob had nowhere to go.

“You heard the man. Empty ‘em,” Duncan said.

“Geez, I was just borrowing them,” Bob said, proceeding to place three screwdrivers, four open end wrenches, two box wrenches, and my 1/4” ratchet and a couple of sockets on the bench.

Duncan’s eyes widened just a little. “Wow, Bob, you’ve got some light fingers there.”

“But... but... I was just...”

“Bob...” I said.


“You know the rules,” I said, fitting a new corundum bit into my new drill.

“You wouldn’t!”

“You want to plug this in?” I said to Duncan, handing him the drill cord.

Bob saw his chance as Duncan leaned over the bench with the plug. He pushed past him and made a beeline for the open door. “You’re crazy,” he screamed as he ran for home.

“You really wouldn’t have done that, would you?”
“I guess we’ll never know, but I bet old five-fingered-discount won’t try to borrow any of my tools again any time soon,” I said as I carefully placed all those tools back in the chest.