Don't know whatcha got til it's gone - Justin Reedy

I know this is going to sound stupid, but why is it the air conditioning always breaks down in the summertime?

The more cynical among you will point out that you only use the A/C during the summer, but let me reassure you by pointing out two things: first, that I can, in fact, walk and chew gum at the same time. And second, that as hot as it gets around here in the spring I've been using my air conditioning for three months solid and summer hasn't officially started yet.

My point is that the sputtering piece of machinery which (its makers claim) creates cool air for my gratification was working just fine until the mercury crept up into the upper 80s within the last week or so. It could handle 83 degrees just fine, but 89 degrees is right out, apparently.

So there I was on Sunday night, every sash in the place thrown skyward, every fan in existence turned up full blast in an attempt to get rid of the hot air in here and bring in the cool air out there. And yet still, I laid there drenched in my own sweat all night long, sleep eluding me in favor of despair.

Of course, the maintenance man at my apartment (a really nice guy named Thomas) came by on Monday to allegedly fix the unit. It didn't take, and I was back where I started later that night – with an A/C unit full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Monday night, though, Fayetteville was on the receiving end of a torrential downpour not seen since that Mel Gibson movie (you know, the one with the flooding), and our man Thomas had his hands full Tuesday fixing 10,000 leaks and re-carpeting flooded apartments. So here I am again, hoping that the hard-working maintenance guy won't have another disaster on his hands today that will keep him from fixing my defunct cooling unit.

I don't know why I'm whining so much – decades ago, no one had air conditioning and they were able to get some semblance of a regular sleep schedule. I'm sure I've noticed the glaring absence of my A/C because I had been pampered by it in the past. My family in Seattle doesn't even have air conditioning because, when you're 60 miles from the Arctic Circle, you only need it about one week out of the year.

Forget absence making the heart grow fonder – it's having something that makes it so. That's true with nearly anything in life, especially people who are close to you.

It's easy to tell how much you'd miss having a relationship with someone important to you. When you have a lot invested in another person, somewhere deep down you can't help but wonder what it would be like without them in your life. Even so, you don't really understand what's it like until it happens.

It's kind of like, Slick's, this little place in Douglasville where I used to go to get a milkshake – best damned milkshake you'd ever have, by the way – that went out of business after a couple of years. Thousands of people no doubt drove past the empty restaurant after it closed its doors and remarked on its demise unknowingly.

"Oh, look, Jimmy Ray," Jimmy Ray's wife would say as they cruised by in the F-150. "That little diner-looking place finally closed down. Wonder if it was any good?"

"Guess we'll never know," Mary's husband would respond.

But those of us who were blessed with the knowledge that Slick's had the best hand-dipped milkshakes this side of Heaven (black forest cherry was awesome, pineapple was spectacular, and mint chocolate chip was incomparable) could fully appreciate what the loss of that business meant to the community, the world, the universe.

Ignorance may be bliss, but it feels pretty good having experienced a Slick's milkshake before they disappeared forever.

You don't know whatcha got 'til it's gone, but at least you know what you had. That's better than not knowing at all.

Justin Reedy covers county government for the News Daily. His column appears on Thursdays. He may be reached at (770) 478-5753 ext. 281 or via e-mail at jreedy@news-daily.com.