It's been an expensive few months chez Granola: as we finished a (planned and budgeted for) home renovation project, several unplanned things went wrong around the house thus we need a new car, need attention to some major drainage problems on one side of the house, need a new roof on the garage that mysteriously got forgotten by the contractor who handled the renovation of the house, and now we need a new airconditioner. Actually, we may need two air conditioners because the new unit put in to cool the new part of the house doesn't seem to be working, but that's a problem for another day, although the irritation that it creates colors the experience of trying to replace the old and broken A/C. I was charmed by the third salesperson who came to see us and I ended up picking him because of his nifty dialect. So that, dear readers, is an unforeseen benefit of linguistic awareness: it can help you make economic decisions at times when you need a decision rule and can't figure out what to do.
It's hard to shop sensibly for central air units. It's hard to find current reviews online and it's hard to know exactly what kind of unit you need if, say, you're an English professor and not a mechanical engineer. We knew enough to know that our old, leaking-in-the-basement unit had finally given up the ghost. And we knew to check an online referral service and get three family-owned, well-reviewed comapnies to give us estimates. Two said we needed a 2.5 ton unit; one said we could get buy with 2 ton. two said we should go with units that use freon (R22); one said we really should switch to the new refrigerant (puron or A410, I think). They all found various different weaknesses in the existing duct work. The online advice we found said to get estimates from different contractors, but didn't help us evaluate the differences among the estimates.
So in the end, we had 3 estimates, ranging somewhat in price, and we didn't know what to do. We didn't know how to evaluate the different claims about the size or refrigerant. We decided to go with the cheapest unit using the new-ish refrigerant, sold to us by the owner of a 4th generation heating and air company. He had a great dialect: one of the units he showed us had [Ekstri] "extry" protection from the weather, and when he was telling us about the new laws (which will phase out freon use in new units by 2010) he said that "freon hurts the ozone, did you'uns know that?" I loved it!!! I've never heard "you'uns" in this part of the country before (it's a Pittsburgh feature).
Regional variation in American English is such a precious and cool thing, such a sign of the communities and places that shape speakers, and I can get on quite a soapbox about linguistic intolerance. The salesman reminded us a lot of Politica's father: he seemed pretty senior (he kept referring to his "boys" who do all the installing now, told us how he installed his first furnace when he was 14, ended up owning the business when his father died young, how he's been an install/tech guy all his life and it's a family business, showed me a newspaper clipping from a local paper profiling him..it was just so cute.)
So wonderful language, competitive pricing, and a unit that doesn't use an HCFC for coolant. And they'll be here in the morning. A fine way for an English professor to buy a new air conditioner.