Editor’s note: The following article is an editorial, and the opinions expressed are those of the author. Read more opinions on the Grio.
To say that 2022 has been an expensive year for me would be an understatement. We don’t need to go into all the details, but there are two major circumstances that have lined my pockets over the past six months. And both circumstances made me realize how much I don’t know and how much this lack of knowledge is (potentially) costing me a lot of money. It also led me to future goals, though. We will come back to it.
Let’s start in the summer, okay? In the heart of summer, in July, my air conditioner went off in my house. I have been living in my house for 10 years now and I have the same accommodation since I moved in, that is to say right after the construction of the house. Because it was about 95 degrees outside and the humidity was at New Orleans swamp level, I immediately called one of the various services in the Washington, DC metro area. A technician showed up a few hours later and diagnosed my problem – my AC unit was shot. He used much more technical terms for it, but according to him, there was literally nothing that could be done to fix my device, and it would have to be replaced. He showed me several options, ranging from state-of-the-art technology to common options; options ranged from $16,000 to $11,000.
Now, I know I know nothing about HVAC systems, but I also felt like there was no way I had no choice but to spend at least $10,000 on a new system. Besides, I really had no idea if I was being lied to or not. Maybe not lied – I don’t think the tech would lie to me, but maybe the situation wasn’t as bad as claimed either. The thing is, I know absolutely nothing about HVAC, I couldn’t even object or push back. But because the costs were so high, I called several other services, some local, some national. Everyone showed up and offered me different versions of the same services, and prices ranged, again, from $12,000 to around $9,000. It’s a lot of money no matter who you are so the idea of parting with so much money is too much especially since I didn’t even know what questions to ask that might make more sense clearly I had no options. One of the techs came out and basically told me he would need to rebuild the entire area where my furnace is currently located, claiming it was not built to code and he didn’t know how my house had passed the inspection to begin with. Mind you, I live in a townhouse community that was built together, so if mine is illegal, it says the whole subdivision is illegal.
Luckily my wife asked one of her friends who mentioned her cousin who has a registered business who told me he could do all the work – remove, install and replace the unit for less than half what other companies were offering. He said they tend to sell more and assume the worst. He came out and inspected my unit and told me he could try and fix the thing and assumed he could, but the cost of the fix – because of the parts needed – was only d about $1,000 less than replacing the entire set. So he did all my HVAC for about $5,000, and now I have wonderful treated air for hot and cold seasons. Fortunately, a person who showed me that he was not trying to forget me showed up; shout out to my wife’s community for help. I still spent $5,000, but it made me a lot less than $10,000. But it underscored, again, that I literally have no idea how to diagnose or fix a problem on some mechanical systems, and I’m at the mercy of whoever comes along.
Which brings me to last weekend when, after picking up my car after a few days of sitting in an airport parking lot, I drove in and my car started making some interesting noises and movements when shifting gears. The car felt like it was going to stop on top of me several times, so I realized I had to take it to the store before I got stuck somewhere. So I did. I arrive at the store and get a call telling me that my transmission has failed internally and the only recourse is to replace the assembly. I’m sure you see where that takes us: $7,000 including labor and parts. I was beside myself; it’s the holiday season, and I have to spend so much. I called a bunch of places and asked them what their costs were for labor and parts for a new transmission for my car. Everyone was pretty much the same except no one else could reach me for a few weeks; this store could do it by Friday. So I had to put away my pride and do it, but I also realized that I had no one to go to – and couldn’t myself – to take a look and see if I was missing. maybe something. Of course, I don’t think the store just took my money; they’re probably telling me the truth. And after calling some shops and talking to people about my car and its transmission it looks like it was going to happen to me no matter what so maybe that’s just what life is with my vehicle. But I hated not having options or know-how.
And it made me realize that I’m going to make sure my kids do it. While I expect my kids to all want to go to college in the traditional sense, I’m also going to make sure they find a way to learn how to solve problems that most people don’t know about. probably nothing. I realize that I am not alone in my ignorance. I’d bet most people don’t know how to specifically diagnose an HVAC system or discern that a transmission has failed internally. I bet most of us are shop dependent and believe the person we are talking to is honest. I hope they are, but I wish I could discuss the details with someone who tells me something expensive is going on. I don’t know if there’s a “build cars for kids” program or an HVAC program for teens, but I promise I’ll start looking. I can do all the construction and assembly and oil changes and all that, but that’s where it all ends, and I want my kids to either have a village that can help with that or be able to do it themselves so they can more confidently deal with the person being asked to fix a system.
Luckily, I haven’t had any other major issues with my car since I got it, and we’re getting the most out of this vehicle. And at this point, I’ve replaced every major appliance in my house in the last two years, so I should be good for a while. God knows I can’t take any more financial blows. But I really feel like there’s a wealth of knowledge I need to learn because I hate wondering if I’m being taken advantage of because I don’t know what I don’t know.
Panama Jackson is a columnist at the Grio. He writes very dark things and drinks very dark liquors, and is rather classy for a lightweight guy. His greatest accomplishment to date coincides with his darkest accomplishment to date in that he got a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after reading one of her articles (the most important), but he didn’t. Didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said “Unknown” (blackest).
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