Tuesday, August 04, 2009

EMPS: Charcoal Disaster

For Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot #49, Carly wants us to match a word with a color and photograph it. My color: charcoal. You know the color I mean: it's that range of grays, almost but not quite black, that replaced chrome as the default color of electronics and other products, stuff made of metal or high impact plastic. It's the color of carbon, the color that absorbs light and turns it into the most heat this side of true black, the color of things that burned up at the worst possible time.

The color of disaster.

If you've been reading this blog, you know I've been griping quite a bit about the weather here in Arizona this summer. Normally by mid-July, we're getting lots of afternoon thunderstorms to cool things down. This year: not so much. Day after day we're getting high temperatures of 107 to 111 degrees, with some late afternoon clouds but only rarely any actual rain - and when it finally happens, it lasts about five minutes.

Charcoal-interior on a hot day - like we need to retain more heat!

Result: it's hot, all day, every day. Except for those hardy souls who can tolerate such temperatures, and the unfortunates who have no air conditioning or can't afford to use it, we Arizonans are running our air conditioners a lot - at home, at work, and in the car. We've already had at least two blackouts at the house as the overloaded grid reacted, and bits of it burned out.

When I take the dogs to the park, I try to do it in the cool (only 90 degrees!) of the evening, and even then, my dog who is bred for northern climes, with charcoal highlights to her long black fur, hangs out a few inches from the car's air conditioning vents, running full blast. But yesterday, I didn't take her at all.

Charcoal highlights on my suddenly-injured dog, Pepper.

That very dog, Pepper, somehow hurt one of her legs (hips? feet?) on Sunday. She was limping intermittently, enough so that John and I were lifting her on and off the bed. There was no sign of one of the "goat's head" burrs that we sometimes have to remove from the dogs' feet or our own, and nothing seemed to hurt to the touch. We figured it was probably a sprain, and decided that I would take her to the vet today. Disaster, right? It was at least a minor one. If she really needed x-rays and treatment, it would be uncomfortable for her, and financially difficult for us, considering that my new unemployment claim still hasn't gone through, and nobody's getting back to me on any of the jobs I've applied for lately. We haven't really dug out from the debt of Tuffy's cancer treatments from 2007 to August 1, 2008.

But when I called today, there were no appointments available, so we'd have to pay urgent care rates, an extra $20. I didn't want to make Pepper wait any longer, so I agreed. But I watched as I led her into Valley Animal Hospital, and she didn't visibly limp at all. So I made my apologies to the assistant at the front desk, and took the dogs back to the car. (Cayenne was along for the ride.) We then hit the drive-throughs at the bank and McDonald's, and started home, a/c blasting.

That's when I noticed the burning smell in the car, like hot tar, like burning electrical wires, like melting plastic.

Like disaster.

I tried to ignore it, explain it away; but I looked at the engine temperature and it was halfway up. Thermostat failure? I opened the windows and hurried home with the dogs.

This afternoon, I was called to St. Michael's to write an emergency check for fixing the air conditioning on a house the church owns and currently rents out. On the drive over, not a whisper of coolness could be detected in the hot air my car was blowing. The interior of my car was hotter than the outside air, I discovered as I stepped out into the St. Michael's parking lot.

So after my errand at church, I headed over to ask the mechanics at our favorite local garage to give me some idea what the problem was and how much it would cost. Martin opened the hood, and we saw this:

On the hot charcoal-toned bits of engine, there was visible evidence that the clutch of my air conditioning compressor had quite literally burned out. There were bits of charcoal-colored ash, actual charred bits of ex-clutch, coating the charcoal-colored metal.

And what looks like bits of actual burned wiring: charcoal-colored, of course:

Disaster! The clutch assembly alone costs more to replace than the whole compressor, including the clutch. We're looking at $450, even with the mechanic giving me a good customer/pity break on the price. Without this repair, a drive in the car is suddenly infinitely more miserable, and it's impossible to drive across town to a job interview (if any) and arrive cool and dry. More immediately, it's not safe to drive the dogs for more than a couple of miles, if that, and even then I'd better have cold water out for them.

But how can we spend the money right now? John has asked, and I've agreed, that I wait out the week and see whether the unemployment payments, which I supposedly applied for successfully a week and a half ago, finally start getting approved and posted to my account. If that doesn't happen soon, and if potential employers continue to ignore my resume or two-hour application, our personal economic disaster will be darker than the ash on my engine block.

And Pepper is limping again.



Liz said...

Charcoal also holds the heat of the fire to write the wrongs of the past.
The fire left nothing to chance but everything to the smoke that signals to the future.
This is not a funeral pyre, this is a light for the way forward because it holds the wisdom gained from the past.

Suzanne R said...

I'm sorry this is going on for you. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers. The unemployment is bound to come through soon, and you are likely to get a job not long after that. I feel that things will get better for you -- just a gut feeling. I can see the tie-in with charcoal, though, most definitely.

Jama said...

I hope there's some good news soon, Karen. It was in the news yesterday, the SEAGATE factory Singapore is relocating and a few thousand workers will be given a golden handshake.

I've no aircon at home, relying on fans all the time. I'm staying on the 13th floor apartment so it's quiet windy here.

Carly said...

Hi Karen

Oh yikes, and here I have been complaining because it has been cold enough this summer to wear sweaters and sweat pants. Hang in there, I am so sorry about the car woes, but it is an excellent topic color choice and word for this week's assignment. Keep me updated on things, and hug the pups for me, especially Pepper!


Theresa said...

Wow Karen when it rains it pours comes to mind. Well, unless it is the Arizona monsoon that can not remember to bring the rain. You are very right about not being safe to drive with the heat, not for the dogs or yourself. I know that our own temperatures have been pushing the 100+ mark here at Ft. Huachuca, and I have been in Tucson during the summer and it is not a good thing without AC. You are in my thoughts and prayers that things take a good turn soon.
Till then hang on, and try to stay as cool as possible.

Your EG Tour Guide said...

Sorry about all the disasters happening all at once! I hope everything looks brighter than charcoal soon, ;-)