It wasn't actually illegal, mind you; merely restricted. And I didn't have the license to buy it. I needed a middleman; someone I could trust. I called my regular connection.
He seemed upset. "I'm sorry-- I can't help you. I just can't help you!" he exclaimed as he hung up the phone.
I was distressed, to say the least. This guy had never let me down before. The stuff must have become scarcer than I'd thought.
I called my second source. He was known in inner circles as something of a specialist; I figured this guy would be able to hook me up, no problem.
His phone had been disconnected.
I began to sweat.
This wasn't something I wanted for fun; I needed it. I needed it in a bad way. And I knew that my need would only increase once I moved. No way I could do without this stuff. No freaking way.
I called an old business acquaintance. I felt bad using him like this, but what could I do? My needs took precedence over any illusion of congeniality.
He was surprisingly sympathetic. "I had a stash, but we all went through it long ago. I can give you something like it, no guarantee it will work for you. I'll see my guy in the morning-- call back then."
No. No no no no no! I knew what he had; it was a half-assed knockoff, and not nearly as powerful. I wanted the real thing.
I weighed my options, and came to a difficult conclusion. This called for desperate measures. I did the unthinkable: I called my boss.
He couldn't possibly hold it against me, could he? I mean, he'd probably say it was unwise, but hell, everybody used it way back when. I know that he used it, too. Maybe he'd have a lead.
He suggested I call the guy who offered me the knockoff. I explained that I'd called him, and that he didn't have the real thing. Did he know of anyone-- anybody at all-- who could help me?
He did! He had a lead; one I never expected: a well-known dealer. I called.
I spoke to the woman who answered the phone. I didn't expect someone not in the circle, as it were, to answer. I asked about the merchandise as nonchalantly as I could. To my surprise, she knew what I was talking about.
"Oh, man, I really don't know. I doubt it. Let me ask someone else. Hold on."
"Hey, what can I do for you?" I mentioned a letter and a number. I could hear him exhale. "No way. That stuff is liquid gold." My shoulders slumped.
"... I do have a number you can try, though."
A glimmer of hope. When you've got a need like mine, a glimmer of hope is as a beacon in the blackest night.
I called the number. "Hey, I was told you guys used to deal in R12. You don't still have any, do you?"
"Hold on, lemme putchoothrooto Wayne."
"Wayne here. I can help you. But it's gonna cost you. Here's what you gotta do..."
R12. They had R12. Holy shit.
"I can't see you 'til Friday, though. And it's really gonna cost you. Want me to pencil you in?"
Something before me caught my eye. "Wayne? Lemme call you back."
I've never been one to do one thing at a time. I'd been surfing the net during these conversations, and had come across some rather disturbing information.
Ebay had it. Ebay had lots of it.
I went back to my regular guy. "Hey, if I got that R12 freon, could you recharge my AC? Please say yes."
"Well, sure! I don't know where you're gonna get it though. You have to be EPA certified to buy it."
And this is why, later this evening, I'll be taking the test for EPA Section 609 Certification. :)
Oh, the lengths I'll go to to keep my cool under pressure.