The Personal Blog of Stephen Sekula

A Home in Texas – Part II: Oh Compressor, Where Art Thou?

(Written on July 19, 2009)

We started our second day with a decent breakfast and a quick and early departure from Bakersfield. Jodi chatted with the desk attendant, and noted how long we had to wait for the cold tap water to actually get cold. We had postulated that this was because the water was stored above ground in these Central Valley desert conditions. The attendant said that often they have to wait 20 minutes for the water to get cold. All that, she commented, to save a fish “this big”, and she indicated the tiny size of the Delta Smelt with her fingers. When Jodi told me this, I thought about the right to life signs littering the highway next to the water rights signs; how the right to lifers would end stem cell science to save a blastocyst, yet the shutting down of pumps to save a fish much bigger than a blastocyst is met with disregard, skepticism, and vitriol. These are the paradoxes of the human condition, and the reality of our complex nation.

Turning eastward, we worked our way through mountains into desert, finally reaching I-40 and entering the Mojave Desert. We passed through vast expanses of windmill farms, and at nearly the same time passed a semi driving east with a POW-MIA logo on the back, reading “All gave some, some gave all.” A slogan designed to remind us of the sacrifice of the military, no less applicable to the water wars, the energy crisis, and climate change. All of us much sacrifice something, some must sacrifice all. Jodi commented that there are some species of flying animal affected by windmills – killed outright, actually. I retorted, “Some species of bat might be killed by windmills, but all species are threatened by climate change.” We agreed this made some sense; all give some, some give all.

Our air conditioning compressor failed in Needle, CA. We took the car to a small gas station, where the boss and his daughter were keeping things running inside the shop and an older guy named Kelly checked out our car. At first, he noticed that the caps for the coolant line had never been screwed back on after the Menlo-Atherton Shell Station recharged our air conditioning. More concerning was that after he refilled the system, you could see the whole engine shudder when the compressor tried to kick on but could not. The compressor was dead, and Jodi and I were angry that even after asking the Shell Station back in Menlo Park to check the A/C out in preparation for desert driving, they somehow missed a failing compressor.

We drove 50 more miles to Kingman, AZ, where there is a Honda Dealership. The cats suffered the most in the heat, and we knew that we could not continue without A/C. Bud, our oldest, was panting heavily, his jaw dripping with thick drool, and at one point the stress was so much he peed in the cat carrier and then climbed out and finished peeing on me. It was a rough day.

So the bad news is that we cannot have the car serviced until early Monday, when the shop opens. We’ll never make it to Dallas on Monday, so we’ll have to move delivery dates for appliances and even an early possible delivery of our furniture back a few days. We know our stuff will make it to Dallas before us, because we saw our truck driver in the Kingman Walmart and his truck in the parking lot. Small universe.