I suppose it’s odd to note one’s thankful for air conditioning in November, in Ohio, when the temperature outside is a brisk 46 degrees, with a high of 53 expected later. But then again I’m not just talking about things I’m grateful for today. I’m also talking about things that I am grateful for in, say, August, when we’re having one of those 90 degree, 90 percent humidity days and going outside sucks all that is good and decent out of you and leaves you being nothing but a perspiring lump of simpering boy-man. On those days, hell yeah, air conditioning rocks.
I have always been an air conditioning fan, but then I would be, considering where I have lived in my life. I grew up in Los Angeles’ San Gabriel Valley, which is far away from the cool ocean breezes and backed up against the mountains, so we would bake from May through September. Then I went to Chicago, whose summers are famously sticky. Then to Fresno, where the average high temperature from June through August is above 90 degrees, and 100 degree temperatures were not in the least unusual for several days running. From there to Washington DC, which was built on a goddamned swamp. Ohio is the least air conditioning-intensive of all the places I’ve ever lived, but the part I live in has a “humid continental climate,” which means lots of summer days when you’re swimming through body-temperature air.
Seriously, in all of these cases, I wonder how people managed before air conditioning became widespread. The answer is that they designed houses for air flow, slept on porches, wore big hats, fanned themselves a lot and sweated the proverbial buckets, all day long, every day from mid-May to the end of September. I do understand that. But they can’t have been happy about it. It can’t have been fun to spend four and a half months of the year in a state of overheated stickiness — and not the fun kind of overheated stickiness at that. Oh, we can romanticize it and talk about “sultry summer nights” if you like. But what I suspect “sultry” really meant was that everyone had sweat stains on their clothes and smelled like they have been marinating in hobo sauce. Which to me at least is the very opposite of sexy.
All of which possibly tags me as an ineffectual wimp when it comes to matters regarding heat, to which I cheerfully say: You bet I am. I suppose if I had to live in a world without air conditioning I could survive, although I would probably whine enough that those around me would want to murder me, and I would sincerely hope that the mysterious disappearance of air conditioning technology was not also coupled by the mysterious disappearance of deodorant technology. However, I don’t have to live in such a world. Indeed, my ancestors sweated like pigs through all their summers in order that I could live in a time where I could press a button and have my living environment be seventy two degrees on any given day of the year. Not taking advantage of air conditioning would be positively disrespectful to them (I’m pretty sure they’d feel the same way about my playing video games too).
So to my ancestors: Thank you for sweating, so that I don’t have to, unless I want to, say, in a gym sort of situation where the sweat is a laudable result of trying to make myself look fit and sexy, rather than in a I’m just existing sort of situation, where I’m sweating because the alternative is heat stroke. I’m sorry you’re not here to enjoy this air conditioning with me. I’ll try to enjoy it for all of us. It’s an awesome responsibility. But I think I’m up to the task.