When some people experience a string of bad luck, I supposed they might chalk it up to random coincidence. I, on the other hand, usually take it as a solid sign that I’m being targeted by the universe for unfair persecution. Maybe I spent too much time reading about omens and curses as a kid; maybe one-too-many of my Sunday School teachers tried to spin divine judgment into an explanation for tragedy; maybe I’m just narcissistic and think the universe revolves around me. Who knows! What I do know is, within the span of one week: 1) the air conditioner in my apartment died, 2) the car I was driving basically blew up, 3) my freezer quit working and 4) that same car was broken into … and I was really thrown for a loop.
Those books I used to read taught me to wait for a knight on a white horse or something, but Uber doesn’t offer that yet. And since God apparently didn’t find a miraculous Lazarus-style resurrection of my air conditioning unit to be a reasonable request, I did what damsels in distress do in the new millennium — I called in the repairmen.
We all know that, when dealing with broken stuff, calling for help can be the beginning of a new kind of torture. You think you need a simple fix and the mechanic tells you your car is dead. You want a small home repair, and the next thing you know everything you own is covered in sawdust and paint drips. Or you have a feeling you’re being misled and overcharged, but you can’t prove it because you’re kind of stupid about fixing stuff.
Well, I turned to local businesses in my hour of need, because, you know, that whole Localist book thing. (Also because I have a pretty amazing landlord who also tries to buy local when she can.) I’m happy to report that my curse seems to be lifted: My air conditioner’s going strong, I’m back on the road, and my icemaker is churning as we speak. So I thought I’d share a run-down of who helped me, just in case anyone else needs a recommendation for a local Birmingham repair.
Air Conditioner Repair: Southern Home Services
I’ve used Southern Home Services before, and my initial experience both times is this: They actually get back with you immediately, and they schedule repairs really quickly. When other air conditioner companies told me I’d have to wait weeks for service, Southern Home Services had someone out that night. Since being without air conditioning in the summer actually causes a bend in the space-time continuum and slows time to a crawl so that your misery feels insufferable (this is totally scientifically accurate; I checked), response time matters.
Did It Work: Yes! I now have air conditioning. My entire unit (including the part in the ceiling) had to be replaced, and the repair guys ran into lots of roadblocks along the way, but they worked really long hours to get it done, even coming in all day Saturday during a holiday weekend. Because of the location of my unit, we were all basically in the same room, so I know the two guys who helped were actually working super hard the whole time (and with no air conditioning, obviously). Another big plus for me is that they were super courteous and very careful not to damage my stuff — everything they had to move was done gently, they covered everything that could possibly have been in the way of debris, and they cleaned up after themselves the whole time. In my experience, that kind of attention to small details is pretty rare.
Did I Get Ripped Off: Was it expensive? I had to have an entire air conditioning unit replaced. Of course it was expensive. But it was comparable to other companies, and it doesn’t seem like they took advantage.
I chose Auto & Truck Services partly because it was convenient to where I broke down, and partly because they painted cool murals on their building this year, and I really like them. Yes, I chose a car repair place because of their hip murals! And I choose books by their covers, too, so judge me if you must.
Did It Work: Yeah! I’m driving the car again, and I’ve had zero problems. Bonus points for having receptionists who were super kind and didn’t make me feel dumb about knowing next-to-nothing about the car (in my defense, I don’t own the car, so that’s partly why I know nothing about it). I also made a nuisance of myself by being that person who left something important in the car that I had to come back for while it was being repaired, and they didn’t shame me for it at all.
Did I Get Ripped Off: I came with a car that was pouring smoke out of the hood, and I paid about $100, so I think that seems pretty fair.
After watching many a YouTube video on refrigerator repair and trying weird home diagnoses such as sticking dollar bills into freezer seals and hand-pouring water into the icemaker, I finally broke down and called for a repairman … only to find that pretty much nobody fixes residential refrigerators. Apparently the repairs cost as much as a new refrigerator? That seems weird to me, but whatever. I ended up heading to Avondale to check out fridges at Mazer, which is totally a locally owned business! (I didn’t know that before.)
Did It Work: Yep. This place was pretty great, actually. They seem to have good prices, and I got a good deal on a better refrigerator than I had before. It was from their scratch-and-dent section, but the dent is about the size of a dime, and it’s inside the handle, so it’s really not noticeable. It’s insured, so they’ll fix any problems that come up, and they delivered it and connected everything for me — a process that took about eight minutes from the time they pulled up to the time they left.
Did I Get Ripped Off: Nope. It was cheaper than the big box stores. I did not, however, get a really big refrigerator box to build a fort out of, so that’s kind of a bummer.
Living Happily Ever After
Anyone who knows me (or is familiar with this thing we call life) knows that isn’t totally accurate, but I am happy with the great service I got from these local businesses. And I’d also like to give a shout-out to my friends who helped in my hour of need, especially Anna (the greatest landlord ever), Kristin and Joshua (who didn’t kill me when I kind of killed their car), Seth (who offered his place as an air-conditioned roof over my head), Brad and Jimmy (who helped diagnose the car trouble), Jonathan (who came with me to Mazer to be sure I wasn’t getting ripped off), Russell (who offered up ice chests to save the food that was salvageable after the fridge melted down), Shipt (who brought me food when I couldn’t leave the house because I was waiting on repairmen — shout-out to my driver who got here on time even though she was rear-ended on the way to my house), my boss Jason (who let me work from home when I couldn’t leave the house because I was waiting on repairmen), and the people of Paramount and Urban Standard (who kept me in air conditioning and beer and coffee in my hour of need, and who commiserated with me even when they didn’t have to). It takes a village to save a Carrie, I guess, and I’m really thankful for all of your help.
Carrie Rollwagen reviews books for Southern Living and BookPage. She’s also Communications Director at Infomedia and author of The Localist. Find her on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter @crollwagen.read more