summer in new york

I Tried to Install an Air Conditioner Myself and I’ll Give You One Guess As to What Happened

Photo: Jessica Roy

This is the story of how I lost $300 and got this bloody lip. This is the story of every New Yorker’s worst nightmare happening to me. This is the story of dropping my air conditioner out the window of my third-floor apartment.

It is hot and it is also humid, and when I leave the windows open to my tiny studio apartment, the putrid smell of garbage seeps in from the outside, so I finally give in and go to P.C. Richard to buy an air conditioner. I want to get one that is less than $150 and I leave with one that costs $300, either because the salesperson, Brian, is super-good at his job or because I am terrible at saying no. I do manage to say no to installation, however, because it costs $50 and I am a feminist who can definitely install a 100-pound air conditioner herself.

Do you think I can carry this five blocks by myself?” I ask Brian. He laughs in my face. “Maybe if you stop every block!” 

I’m just trying to be an independent woman!” I retort.

He laughs again. “Fine, but do it right!”

Thanks for your confidence, Bri.

I snag a cab and manage to haul the AC up two flights of stairs to my apartment. It is hot. It is so hot, and I am already developing a bruise in the well of my arm where the appliance’s weight pressed into me as I dragged it upstairs. I hate this air conditioner but I love it so much! Think of how much I will love it when it has turned my apartment into a comfortable icebox. 

As it turns out, I will never get to experience love like that. Also, I should’ve taken Brian’s advice.

After installing the side panels, I hoist the air conditioner onto the window sill and attempt to get it locked in place. It teeters a little bit, which gives me a scare, but I manage to balance it and close the window. But wait! It’s not aligned right. I open the window again and attempt to rebalance it. Suddenly, everything is happening in slow motion. It is sliding, literally at about an inch a minute, out of my grasp and into midair. I blindly grasp at it, helplessly screaming, “No! No! No!” My cat’s like, “What is wrong with her?” The air conditioner slides out of my hands and takes a layer of skin with it. It plunks onto my downstairs neighbor’s patio, in a pool of standing water. It is gone.

It takes me about a full minute to realize I am bleeding from several places. I’m coated in sweat and I’ve started crying hysterically without really meaning to. My whole mouth is bleeding and my fingers are bleeding and I’m leaning out the window of my tiny gross studio apartment being like, Why did I decide to live alone? Why didn’t I just ask someone to help me? Why is everything the worst?

Also, I haven’t eaten dinner yet, so I’m, like, real hangry.

I run downstairs to the bodega beneath my building, whose owner acts like my surrogate dad. He sees my face and is like, “What’s wrong?” I tell him the saga and burst into tears. “At least it didn’t hit anybody?” he offers.

My neighbor is in the bodega, and he asks me where I got the AC from because maybe they’ll take it back. “P.C. Richard,” I say. 

He winces. “Oh God, that’s, like, the worst place to get it from.” Thanks, bud!

I call P.C. Richard and ask for Brian. “Hi, it’s Jessica. I’ll give you one guess what just happened to the air conditioner.”

What?” he asks, stifling a laugh.

I dropped it out the window!” I’m sobbing again.

Are you crying?” Brian asks, totally weirded out. 

Yes! I’m, like, upset! I’m sorry! You guys won’t, like … refund me, right?” 

Brian sighs. In his head, I am positive he thinks, What is wrong with this crazy bitch? A lot of things, to be honest, but first and foremost what is wrong is that I dropped the $300 air conditioner out the window an hour after getting it.

Let me talk to my manager,” Brian says. He puts me on hold for 30 seconds.

There’s nothing we can do,” he informs me. “It’s not our fault you dropped it.”

Tough but fair, Bri. Tough but fair.

Finally, I give in and call my landlord. I’m still crying! God, get it together, Jess. “Hi, um, I live in 3 and I … dropped the air conditioner out the window,” I say to my landlord, whom I’ve only spoken to maybe twice.

Did it fall through the roof of the store?” he asks, immediately making me question the structural integrity of my building.

Uh, no … but it’s in a puddle on the second-floor patio, and I need to get it.” He tells me the person who lives in that apartment, a member of his family, works nights, so we can’t retrieve it until tomorrow. “Everything will be okay,” he says. “We will fix it in the morning.”

My beloved AC is still in that puddle. I do not know if it works. Somewhere, my old pal Bri is posting on Facebook about how stupid I am.

Air-conditioner accidents in New York are actually pretty rare. Last year, one fell out of a window on Lexington and hit a woman in the head, but she recovered. It’s been 25 years since anyone has been killed by a falling air conditioner, but alongside falling on the subway tracks or getting bedbugs, it still looms large in New Yorkers’ minds as one of their biggest urban fears. This is my story, and I hope you will read it and decide to just settle for a fucking fan.

I Dropped My Air Conditioner Out the Window