Some Like It Hot. Those People Don’t Live in Alabama.

When I first started writing Shop Small, I discovered new local products and new independent stores all the time. Fast forward a few years to now, and I mostly visit the same few local stores and restaurants in my everyday footprint. This was true before I left on The Localist book tour, and it’s especially true now that I’m back in Birmingham and craving normalcy.


But even when you try to make your life routine and normal, it usually gets shaken up anyway. Sometimes, life gets tired of your being so basic and literally tries to sweat you out. Sometimes, for example, your air conditioner stops working in the middle of the Alabama summer, forcing you out of your comfort zone by making your comfort zones uncomfortable.


In case it’s not obvious by now, that’s what happened to me a couple of weeks ago. Much like any unwanted change in life, the first step in losing your air conditioner is denial. I pretended that my air conditioner was just having a hard time keeping pace with the heat, hoping it would eventually rally. I drank gallons of Piper & Leaf iced tea. I convinced myself I had a fever (if my internal temperature was the problem, I wouldn’t have to call a repair service). I pulled my fans out of the closet and pretended it was normal to need stand-up fans to supplement central air.


Finally, after the temperature inside my house wouldn’t get lower than 85, I broke down and called my usual repair guy … only to find out he no longer repairs air conditioners. (There are licensing problems or something — I don’t really know, because I was in a heat-induced stupor.) I asked for references from friends, but I only got horror stories of air conditioners that stayed broken and people getting ripped off. I called the company that installed the air conditioners, and they said they’d be happy to come out — next month. Long story short (just kidding, I know this isn’t short), I kept Googling until I found a local HVAC company with good reviews. (That in itself took a long time, because most of the companies I found had one-star or no-star reviews from really angry customers.)


Southern Home Services finally came through with good Google reviews, and they showed up at my house the next day (they actually tried to come immediately, but we had an address mix up that I attribute entirely to the indisputable fact that the universe was trying to ruin my day), and they were fantastic. Harry was kind, sensitive to the fact that I probably didn’t want a stranger in my house for any longer than necessary, and committed to making sure I understood as much of the process as possible so I didn’t feel like I was getting ripped off. He told me stories, let me mess around with the psychrometer (not as exciting as it sounds — it’s basically a thermometer for humidity), and most importantly, he fixed my air conditioner quickly. Was it cheap? Nope. But the prices were definitely comparable to the rest of the market, and anyone who’s been without air during an Alabama summer knows that air conditioning feels like a miracle and you’d do pretty much anything to get it back.


I’m not saying I loved the process so much that I’m eager to do it again, but I do think Southern Home Services made the best of my bad situation. They took care of my air conditioning problem quickly and professionally, and for that I’m incredibly grateful.


Carrie Rollwagen is author of The Localist: Think Independent, Buy Local and Reclaim the American Dream, creator of 30 Days of Local Praise and co-founder of Church Street Coffee & Books. Find her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @crollwagen.

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