A few weeks ago, we experienced a minor heat wave with temperatures in the upper 80s for 3 or 4 days. It was pretty unusual for late April. I put my foot down, though, and refused to turn on the AC while the calendar still showed April. I simply was not willing to extend the cooling season another month, since it already runs through October in this part of the country. Oh, the weeping and wailing that ensued! You would have thought I had just announced cancellation of our wireless plan or something. “But Mom, every other house in the neighborhood has the air conditioner running!!” This was true. As I drove in and out of the neighborhood, I was hard-pressed to find another house with the windows wide open. At night, I was serenaded by the whirring of compressors. Still, I held my ground, and the hot spell broke.
Now that I have flipped to the next page on the calendar, it’s only a matter of time before I’ll have to hit the switch on the thermostat. Such a small thing, but it’s a big deal to me. I am all about letting in the fresh air. Especially after learning recently that our power company is implementing another increase in rates and fees. The company estimates the average family will see an extra $12 per month on the bill. That may only be the cost of one takeout pizza, but it’s the principle of the thing that gets me. I buy Energy Star appliances; I use those stupid compact fluorescent lightbulbs; I keep the thermostat at 79 in summer and 69 in winter. I am a responsible consumer of electricity, but my bill is still getting bigger! What is left to cut?
Leaving aside the cost of electricity, though, I have to agree with the notion developed here at Free Range Kids about the societal effects of our dependence on air conditioning. I believe communities do lose something when everyone closes themselves into their air-conditioned homes for months at a time, not emerging until the heat breaks in October. Kids plant themselves in front of the computer or TV because “it’s too hot” to play outside. Adults don’t hang out and socialize in the evenings. I am really lucky to live in a neighborhood in which social ties often do win out over air conditioning, but what about everyone else’s cul-de-sac?
It’s interesting that people have become so used to blasting cool air that an environment with no AC becomes unbearable. I grew up without central air and lived to tell about it. Generations grew up south of the Mason Dixon line, and they got by in spite of the heat and humidity. Isn’t that what all of those gorgeous southern-style wrap-around porches are for, sitting out on a summer evening and watching the fireflies? Yeah, it was hot when I was a kid, but it’s not any hotter now. Why is it that we all seem to think we will wither up like a parched petunia if we spend any length of time in air over 80 degrees?
Summer is supposed to be hot. That’s what makes the ice cream from the walk-up Dairy Freeze taste so good. That’s why running through the sprinklers is so refreshing. And why would you ever eat a Popsicle inside?? (Get out the Resolve Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner now!) Tank tops, camis, sundresses–all meant to be worn in hot weather. They’re just plain silly in a freezing mall or movie theater.
I’ll hold out as long as I can on our AC. These early days of summer-like weather are perfect for airing the dog-cat-dirty laundry smell out of the house. And I have these bushes in front of the house that will bloom in a week or 2, and they smell beautiful. If I have the windows open, I’ll be able to smell them from inside, too. For me, that’s a good enough reason to sweat a little.