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Jewish World Review
July 11, 2008
/ 8 Tamuz 5768
Hard to keep your cool longing for A/C
The day I choose to spend with our son and his wife in their condo in Chicago was the same day the two of them decided to turn off their air conditioning. Lucky me.
I walked in, and after a respectable amount of time (three seconds), said, "Hey, it feels like a steam bath here."
"Yeah, it is kinda warm," the son said, mopping his brow. "We turned off the air conditioner. We're acclimating getting ready for our trip to Italy. A lot of the places we'll be staying don't have air conditioning, so we want to get used to the heat now."
The son said not to worry; it hadn't gotten above 88 inside. "At least not yet," he said, peering at the thermostat.
The daughter-in-law didn't seem to mind the heat. But she's young and pretty. When she gets hot, she breaks into a light sweat that makes her look like she's glowing. When I get hot, I look like one of the melting monkeys on "The Wizard of Oz," although I try not to make the screeching sounds.
The son said if I sat by the sliding glass doors, I might catch a breeze.
I might. Chicago is known as the Windy City, but what they don't tell you is that the wind needs GPS to direct it between all the tall buildings so crammed together they block the air flow.
Do you know why so many apartment dwellers in big cities have dogs? So the animals can drag their owners' limp bodies home after they pass out on the street from heat exhaustion and lack of air circulation. It has nothing to do with being man's best friend. It's a survival measure, pure and simple.
I shared the elevator in our son's building with a woman who was about 81 -- age and weight heading out to take her rather large-size dog for a walk. This frail little woman should have been walking a Chihuahua, but do you know why she wasn't? Because a Chihuahua can't drag you home.
I don't know when I got so hooked on air conditioning. We spent a lot of summers as kids without air conditioning. Men worked in shirts and ties without it and families drove to California with nothing but a 470 four windows down at 70 miles an hour.
We didn't get an air conditioner until the mid '60s. They were the big window units the dads hauled up from the basement around Memorial Day and lugged back down in September.
Once the window units appeared, neighbors didn't sit on the front steps in the evenings as often. Later, everybody put in central air and the neighbors mainly talked by phone.
I was thinking about how this marvelous convenience has changed us as I tried to sleep that night, tossing and turning, adding the temperature and the humidity to calculate the heat index. (It always helps to have numbers to substantiate your misery.)
I considered standing at the window for some fresh air, but the window faced six windows on the apartment building next to it. Someone could think I was window peeking and call the police, so I decided against it.
And then I thought, why not. It might be a good way to meet the neighbors. And if that didn't pan out, at least the police cruiser would have air conditioning.
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© 2008, Lori Borgman
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