Keeping romance alive when your AC breaks down? No sweat.

Wrangler editor Joyce Coronel and her Mr. Fix-It hubby, Pipo.

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“Is there an elbow in that box of parts there, amor?”

My husband was up in the crawl space of our house, sweat pouring down his face. The air conditioning was out. Again. For West Chandler residents in July, it seemed like bad news.

After cranking away for 25 years in our Warner Ranch home, our AC unit is now considered a bit of an antique. It’s not easy to find parts and we know that sooner or later, we’ll need to bite the bullet and buy a new system. But not yet.

My dearly beloved spouse of 32 years is a Mr. Fix-It kind of guy who loves nothing more than tinkering away on broken stuff—cars, sewing machines, computers, and yes, air conditioners—and finding  a way to get them working again.

The son of a scrappy electrician, Pipo, a nickname bestowed upon him at an early age, grew up in Venezuela among nine siblings who knew that if something got broken, their parents wouldn’t be replacing it. Call a repairman? That wasn’t going to happen. So, taking things apart and figuring out how they worked became an act of necessity. Who needs toys when you’ve got a busted television?

When he first came to the U.S. in 1983, Pipo had a guitar, a pair of jeans and some T-shirts plus tuition money his father had sacrificed from his pension. Settling into the smallest room of a house rented by fellow students, my future husband had enough space for a mattress on the floor and a cardboard box of belongings. From those humble beginnings, he ultimately earned a degree in engineering. We both graduated from Arizona State University in 1985 and, three months later, we were engaged.

So how does a native Arizonan, an Irish American girl whose family kept a well-used list of mechanics and repairmen, wind up married to an immigrant from Venezuela?

We were introduced by a mutual friend at ASU.

Let me clarify: We were introduced by an actual, living, breathing human person, not a Facebook friend.

We met at an actual location in space and time, the ASU Memorial Union. We bumped into each other on campus (not cyberspace—it existed back then, sort of) and he asked me for my phone number—a “landline,” which happened to be the only way to get in touch in 1984. Unless you sat down and wrote words on a piece of paper and mailed it, that is. In times past, you might have called it a love note.

In this era of dating apps and breaking up via text messaging, our story might seem cheesy. But you know what? It worked. And when I hear people complain that they can’t meet that special someone, that there’s no one left, I want to shout: “Put down that phone! Get out there and volunteer somewhere. Go to a party with friends. Find a cause you believe in and get involved. Take a walk in your neighborhood. That’s how people meet! That’s how they’ve been doing it for thousands of years.”

Want to find that kindred spirit? Be the best person you can be. Keep your wits about you and love will bloom organically.  For a generation fixated on all things natural, that last bit should be a selling point.

I will say this though: After a long day at work, there’s nothing I enjoy more than curling up with my Kindle and losing myself in a novel. Preferably British. But I won’t find love there—only escape. If I want to be loved, I sit down with my husband and clear my throat. He then closes his laptop and stares at me. (He was probably watching YouTube videos about how to fix antiquated air conditioners.)

We talk. We laugh. We commiserate. We rant and rave.

Last weekend had to be one of the best of our marriage. We didn’t go to any restaurants. We didn’t go to the movies. We didn’t take a trip to the beach. The indoor temperature in our house topped 90 degrees at one point, but we walked through it together. As I watched him climbing down the ladder from the attic, dressed in his beat-up jeans and ragged T-shirt, I’ve never loved him more.

And that’s my word of encouragement to those looking for love. Open yourself to love and goodness in the real world by acting with love and seeking goodness. Look for someone who breaks a sweat helping the less fortunate and strives to make a difference in the world.  Keep it real and hang in there together through the good times and the bad times. Put away the technology and stare into each other’s eyes every day, at least for a few minutes.

Especially if your AC breaks down in July.

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