Fear and “MAX A/C”

WARNING: The word “sh*t” (shit) appears in this essay 11 times.

There’s a setting on my car’s air conditioner called “MAX A/C,” and it’s freaking me out.

It’s also making me rethink my attitude to life, but more on that later.

The immediate problem with MAX A/C is that I just don’t know what it does. The context does not provide clues. It’s not on the fan dial or the temperature dial. If it was on either of these, one could reasonably presume that it indicates the highest fan speed or coldest temperature. But no, it’s on the same dial that lets you select which vents the air’s gonna come out of, which doesn’t make any sense.

This vent-choosing dial has all the time-honored traditional settings, referring to which part of your body/car needs to have conditioned air shot at it:

  1. Head
  2. Head and Foot
  3. Just Foot
  4. Defrost and also Foot
  5. Straight-up Defrost

And then, all the way to the left, there’s MAX A/C. Which raises the question, What is MAX A/C a maximum of? The choices on the vent dial are not quantitative—they don’t go from least (min) to most (max). Does it mean the air’s gonna fire out of all vents? (In which case, it seems like it would have been simple enough to draw a schematic indicating “Head and Foot plus Defrost,” but is that really “max”? Wouldn’t that just diffuse the force of the air?) Is it going to open some heretofore unknown, secret vent that shoots air right down the back of your neck? Does it engage a fan speed higher or temperature colder than the fan and temperature dials are willing to admit is even possible? Does it divert power from the forward thrusters?

The dial in question, with mystery setting.
The dial in question, with mystery setting.

My wife and I both drive Kias, so we both have the MAX A/C setting. I never use it. Context: we live in Arizona, where we reach for our cardigans when the temperature dips below 100. I figure if MAX A/C is some sort of panic setting more powerful than just turning the fan and temperature dials all the way up (down?), then it should be reserved for conditions of man-the-battlestations extreme heat.

Put it this way: if you use MAX A/C when it’s 105 degrees out, where you gonna go when it’s 115? You’ve already brought out the big guns! You have no bigger guns! You fool!

My wife uses MAX A/C pretty much by default. 92 degrees out? MAX A/C. 112 degrees out? MAX A/C. Totally reckless! She’s busting into her emergency rations when there are still berries to forage and critters to hunt!

But here’s another thing about my wife: she gets shit done. Granted, sometimes—s o m e t i m e s . . . the wrong shit gets done. OR: maybe the shit gets done in maybe not THE absolute best way possible. But, really, nine times out of ten, it’s fine, and it was just the getting the shit done that really counted and that, really, saved the day in the end.

Me? I agonize. About getting the shit done in the best way possible, or about the best time to get the shit done, or about which shit should get done first, or about getting some mental space to just . . . wrap my brain around the details of the shit what needs doing. And agonize about what it says about me that I agonize about doing said shit, in an infinite feedback loop that is not nearly as much fun as it sounds.

So here’s the thing: I make fun of my wife for going straight to MAX A/C without even giving “mid” A/C a try. But! I’m beginning to think that her ability to get shit done is somehow linked to her ability to damn the torpedoes and say “Gimme everything you got, A/C! I’m [somewhat] hot now, not at some imagined future time when I may be hotter!”

Conversely, my inability to get things done may be linked to my constant anticipation of the invevitable future time when EVERYTHING WILL GO WRONG.

Because there is so much that can go wrong in life. It’s a part-time job keeping up with it all. For example:

  • Cancer
  • Home invasion
  • The abduction of my children through their bedroom window
  • Any nice thing I buy myself being the thing that sends my family into bankruptcy
  • Bankrupty-caused homelessness
  • Having to live somewhere very unpleasant due to bankruptcy
  • Cancer
  • Being on a hike and losing my shoes somehow
  • Being on a trip and losing my glasses [Happened – Ed., 2021]
  • Being locked outside when it’s really cold, naked somehow, possibly as a form of mafia-related torture
  • Plane crash
  • Ghosts
  • Someone breaking into our house and stealing our laptops
  • Cancer
  • The collapse of civilization
  • Being really hot in the car and not being able to make it cooler

In other words, my wife, in the words of Ram Dass, “is here now.” (Be’s here now? Does be here now? She lives in the moment, is what I’m trying to say). I, on the other hand, be in an imagined catastrophic future where everything goes to hell.

Now, I’m not saying I’m gonna start using MAX A/C—I’m not that crazy! But: next time I feel the urge to smile condescendingly at my wife’s rash use of MAX A/C, perhaps I’ll stop and consider: who’s spending the present moment simply driving to her next destination, and who’s spending his present moment in his head, running away, shoeless, from cancer-ghosts who want to steal his children/laptop?

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