Air condition-less adventures

Rick Ryckeley

Help! In the middle of this latest heat wave, the air-conditioning in our beloved car has broken. If it were just yours truly in the car, I could live without it, but driving our two granddaughters, Little One and Sweet Caroline, it’s a true emergency.

Or so I thought. They thought it was fun riding around with the windows down and wanted to do it all the time … right up until a red wasp flew into the car. But what happened when that winged assailant started crawling around the ceiling directly above Little One’s head? Well, that’s the end of this story.

First, let’s take another road trip — back a long, long time ago to that old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo. And to another family car unequipped with the cooling blast of air-conditioned air.

Our forest green station wagon with the faux wood panels also didn’t have air-conditioning. That put the lives of us kids at risk. I should know. It’s been over 60 years, and I still remember how dangerous it was to ride in our car.

Our station wagon had no lap/shoulder seatbelts, only lap belts. And they were only used in a true emergency. To our parents, a true emergency was when we kids wouldn’t stop changing seating positions, crawling over the seats, or punching each other – which we did most times we rode in the car.

They thought we were always jumping around and fighting because we were just being kids. But being kids had nothing to do with it. We were constantly fighting and changing seat positions trying not to get burned. Confused? Just keep reading, Dear Reader – the smoke is about to clear.

Our mom smoked cigarettes while driving. Because our car didn’t have air-conditioning, all the windows were rolled down when it was hot outside. As Mom flicked the ashes off her cigarette, they were sucked out her window — then immediately sucked back inside ours.

Trying to avoid being burned, we struggled to dodge the red-hot embers, but more often than not, we failed. Mom really didn’t hear us with the windows down or she simply ignored us because with five kids, one of us was always complaining about something. So the windows stayed down.

Plus, Dad didn’t want the windows up. I never really knew if the reason was that the car would be too hot, too smoky, or that, again, the sound of the wind rushing by helped drown out all our complaining.

When the air-conditioning broke in our car last week, I finally knew the answer to that long-ago question.

For the last week, I’ve driven our granddaughters around with our windows down. They simply enjoyed the novelty and so did I. The wind not only made them happy, it drowned out all the complaining and arguments. (Perhaps Dad had a good idea back on Flamingo after all.) Keeping the windows down was a good idea right up to yesterday.

That’s when the red wasp was blown through their open window. Just like us back on Flamingo when Mom flicked a large ash out her window, kids yelled, screamed, squirmed, and flailed arms all over the place. But unlike us, our granddaughters couldn’t escape the stinging visitor by switching positions or diving over the backseat. They were both secured tightly in their car seats.

I did what any grandparent would do facing such an emergency traveling 40 miles an hour. I quickly pulled off the road (being careful to keep my use of colorful language in check) and nicely asked the wasp to get out.

After drying the girls’ tears, comforting hugs were exchanged (I really needed one — all that screaming unnerved me) and we were soon on our way — with the windows up.

Since the wasp incident, the girls have asked that the windows be kept up even though our air won’t be fixed until next week. Guess I don’t blame them. If we had our windows rolled up back in the day, my three brothers, The Sister and I could’ve also avoided getting stung many times … by all that cigarette ash.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog:]