I went looking for an air conditioner part and ended up with an education.
That is because I wandered into the shop of the Ed Sullivans. There are two of them, Ed the Father and the Ed the Son. They run EMCO, an air conditioning sales, service and parts shop on Canton Center Drive just behind the K mart on Northpoint Boulevard in Dundalk.
The Sullivans, I found out, don't merely sell air conditioners and parts. They also pass along cooling wisdom.
Take the accordions. That is name of the part I needed. My old vinyl ones that fit between the side of my air conditioner and the window frame and kept the hot air out had cracked.
"They don't look like much," said Ed the Father "but the amount of heat they keep out is tremendous."
"You got holes in your accordion, you are loosing cool air."
And worse than that, he said, "you're letting mosquitoes in."
With 42 years in the air conditioning business, Ed the Father, who is 65, gave the impression that he had heard most questions about air conditioning repair.
Like whether or not all accordions work for all brands of window units. I didn't ask that question. But Ed the Father answered it anyway.
"Your Emerson accordions work for them all, except for your GE. Your GE has a rollover," he said, explaining that a rollover was another name for the round bar with three rivets that make up the end of the piece. Rollover accordions, he said, can only be replaced with their own kind.
Ed the Son showed me the notch that my kind of accordions have on their ends. And he showed me how to slide them into place.
This was stuff I needed to know. During my visit and during a subsequent phone conversation with Ed the Father I picked up these other bits of air-conditioned advice:
*On what keeps an air conditioner from falling out of the window: "It is balance. And keeping the window closed. I always put two screws in it (connecting the air conditioner frame to the upraised window sash). And it is important to put some blocks of wood or something in the window tracks. That keeps somebody from opening the window.
"I see it all the time. Somebody comes in a room and wants some fresh air, and opens the window. Boom! Out the window goes the air conditioner."
*On keeping vinyl window frames from being squashed by the weight of an air conditioner: Put some wood between the tracks at the bottom, to make the spot on the frame where the weight will rest is fairly even.
*On how to keep an air conditioner in the window all year 'round and avoid the back-breaking task of moving it: "In the winter you cover the outside with plastic. And you seal up the inside, where the filter goes.
"Women don't like an air conditioner juttin' into the room. So there are these new air conditioners that are flush to the window. If you get one of them, she can draw the curtains."
*On how many people it takes to put a heavy air conditioner in a window. "It is a two-man job. You get some of these guys who think they are Tarzan."
*On how weather effects sales: "The cool weather kills us. I had a guy who told us that he was gonna get his IRS refund check back and wanted to put in a (central air-conditioning) unit in his house May 1. So I write it down, May 1.
"Then he gets his check, and goes out driving with his wife. And she sees this red car, which she thinks is the prettiest thing she ever saw. And the weather is cool. So he takes the check and buys his wife the car.
"He was honest about it. And he tells me he will get the air conditioning when he gets the dough.
"I do the same thing. A couple of years ago it is snowing like mad. I go up the Western Auto to get snow tires. On my way up there, it stops snowing.
"I say, 'What the hell, wait till next year.' "