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Knackered in Nashua (Part 2)

We haven’t seen much of beautiful, historic Nashua, New Hampshire yet, because we’ve been fighting the weather.

After a rough start in Nashua in Friday, we spent a lovely Saturday afternoon walking around downtown, but that’s all we’ve managed to see so far.

By Saturday night the heat was unbearable, and Friday’s unseasonably high temperatures had developed into a full-out heat wave.

Every room in our hotel was booked, because of the Can-Am League baseball game in town, and so was every other hotel in Nashua.

And around 1:00 a.m. Sunday morning we realized the air conditioner had stopped working.

No joke.

And the room felt like a cook stove.

We called the front desk, and it turned out that our wing of the building relied on a very old central air conditioning system (a Freidrich Climate Master, for you HVAC connoisseurs) which had thrown a bearing, and about a third of the rooms in the hotel were now without air conditioning. They expected it to take days to get fixed.

Let me repeat: one third of the rooms, overflowing with drunk, sun-struck, rowdy baseball fans, in a record heat wave, had no air conditioning at all. Including ours of course.

Don’t forget that every hotel in town was booked solid because of the baseball game. There was nowhere else to go nor did we feel like packing up and leaving, half-asleep, in the middle of the night. With a hotel overflowing with angry, overheated baseball fans, the idea of sleeping in the car, in the heat, didn’t seem appealing or prudent, either. And the hotel room didn’t even have exterior windows. (The windows look out, oddly, onto an interior hallway, and are sealed shut.)

We don’t get stressed about these things. Parts wear out, machines break. The air conditioning failure certainly wasn’t personal or malicious on the part of the hotel.

Unfortunately, what we do instead is get headaches and feel sick.

To put our Nashua experience in perspective, I have to tell you about when our air conditioning went out in Dallas, Texas, in a heat wave of over 110 degrees. Now that’s the kind of weather where babies and pets and old people wind up dead. In Texas, state law requires apartment managers to offer emergency maintenance services to keep air conditioners running for that very reason.

When our Dallas apartment air conditioner went out on a Friday night, the junior maintenance guy on call told us that he could fix our ratty, gasping air conditioner right away, or we could wait until Monday and get a brand new air conditioner installed.

The apartment was a dump. There was no glaze on the enamel kitchen sink and there was wallpaper on the kitchen counters. When we complained to the office that maintenance had failed to show up on several occasions, the explanation was invariably that the maintenance guy (you know, the guy with the master key to all the apartments) was away for a court appearance. Of all the strange and awful places we have lived in, and there have been many, this place was working hard to win bottom place on the list.

Living in this dump, the prospect of a brand new appliance that actually worked, and kept our apartment comfortably cool instead of just slightly less hot, was too tempting to pass up. We agreed to wait three days, in the heat wave, until Monday.

To survive, that first night we dragged our inflatable mattress across the yard, used our property key to get into the common area in the main building, and slept on the floor of the office. (We might not have class, but we’re great urban survivors.)

On Monday, the senior maintenance guy showed up (maybe his trial was in recess), told us the junior guy was nuts, and pieced together our banged-up old air conditioner which wheezed out luke-warm air for the rest of the summer.

All of which is to say that losing air conditioning in a decent hotel on a sub-100 day in New Hampshire really pales in comparison. (Although I still managed to get good and sick from the heat.)

How does our Granite Inn story end?

The hotel got some things right: the staff offered to move us to a room in a newer wing, with functioning in-room air conditioning, as soon as guests checked out and housekeeping staff could make up a room.

Before a new room came available, a local HVAC repair person came out on a Sunday (thank you anonymous HVAC superhero!) and got things fixed up. The hotel then gave us the option to keep our old room and avoid the hassle of moving, or change to a newer, recently renovated room. We were completely wiped out after a hot, sleepless night, and I was feeling pretty sick, so we opted to stay where we were.

That was Sunday, and as of Wednesday, I am still a little draggy: sick, insomniac, indigestive and exhausted from the heat.

We would certainly have been more impressed if the hotel had done anything extra: given us our sleepless Saturday night for free, extended us the weekly rate for our week-long stay even though we didn’t book a full week up-front (we extended our stay after the first night), or offered us a discount on a stay at another Best Western hotel. But to be honest, their customer service has still been a higher level than most places we’ve stayed at. And while we always appreciate exceptional customer service, we don’t feel entitled to it or expect it. (We would stay here again and overall we would recommend the hotel.)

Our current score in Nashua is: Weather 2, Shaula 0.

The other point to keep in mind is that even though I’ve been literally a little under the weather this week, the heat and humidity of New England, even in this hot and soggy record-breaking summer, is nothing like the oppressive summer weather of Richmond, Virginia.

For the 4 years we lived in Richmond, I effectively spent my summers under house arrest. If I so much as walked from the front door to the car, I could be sick for days from the heat and the air quality. Thanks to the humidity-driven high mold and fungus counts in Richmond, even sitting inside a sealed room with filtered air and industrial air conditioning, I would feel worse on the muggiest days. This started in mid-June and lasted until mid-September: I was trapped in the house for 3 months out of every year.

We moved heaven and earth to put this trip together so that we could be on the road by July 1 (2008), and get me out of Richmond before the worst heat hit. New England might be having one of its worst summers on record, and I may have had a slightly hard time this week in particular, but the weather up here is still easier to take and easier on my health than summers in Richmond have been. And that makes this trip overall, and even our sleepy week in Nashua, a big hit.

We’re not sure where we’re heading next, but we’ll definitely be chasing cooler weather. And we may not be moving too quickly.

Image Credit World Meteorological Association

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1 Kathy Maister { 08.21.08 at 6:10 am }

There is nothing worse than a heat wave! Except being in a heat wave with NO air conditioning! How awful! At least you know you will be waking up to a decent breakfast.
The most dreadful hotel experience we have had was being in one hotel fire and two power outages. Walking down from the 11th floor in a smoke filled stairwell of a NYC hotel was really terrifying! The power outage in Johannesburg was equally terrifying in that we were plunged into total darkness and then ALL of the electronic room locks popped open!
The very first thing I do in any hotel is look for the emergency stairwell.
I hope the weather changes soon!

2 Neil { 08.21.08 at 10:42 am }

Ouch, Kathy!

One New Year’s Eve in Dallas, our neighboring apartment building burned down to the ground. The apartment complex was built in a ‘T’ shape, and ours was the middle of the crossbar… no more than ten feet from the end of the burning building. We spent the wee hours of the morning trying to take care of the neighbors, and watching the flames lick the shingles on our roof.

3 marty { 08.21.08 at 11:29 am }

It is really too bad that you hit the northeast in the middle of that stint of bad weather. You are about a month too early. The fall is really cozy with cool mornings and fair days.

I somehow overlooked your email about visiting RI! It seems like you may have bi-passed it through Mass. If you do end up going through, I can suggest some nice places to check out.

I would also offer up my parents’ place to stay, but they have totally gutted out their first floor to build an addition.

I was thinking of you guys last night as I crunched field numbers while enjoying a nice cup of Ooolong Tea. Virginia is not the same with out you guys.

4 Neil { 08.21.08 at 12:07 pm }

Good to hear from you, marty =]

The cool mornings and fair days are what we’re hanging out for, so we may yet make that, and we will certainly email you any time we’re near RI.

Was also thinking of you, last night–as you were on the site, I tried to message you. But alas, no dice.

5 Shaula { 08.23.08 at 12:17 am }

@ Kathy: I had no idea how scary fire can be up close until that apartment fire. I can’t begin to imagine what it was like for you walking out of that hotel in the smokey dark.

I look for emergency exits right away, too!

@Marty: the Northeast is still less humid than Richmond, so we’re very happy with things all in all. And we are very happy to be off-season travelers.

Please do give us advice about Rhode Island. We’d love a Marty’s-Eye-View of the place. We’re hoping to hit it on the way back.

We miss you, too! It is a rare treat to get a comment from you, here. I hope you and C. are enjoying your new place and getting settled in.