Air Conditioning - the Path To Hell
Air-conditioning..Now you've struck a cord that gets to the heart of morality. I never cheated on my husband, shot anyone, or drove while intoxicated (well there was that one time). But every time I turn on my central air conditioning, I feel like I need to find the nearest Catholic church (if I were still Catholic), walk into the confessional, and with the sign of the cross, say "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned...I've indulged in the pursuit of cool air on a moderately hot day" I imagine the conversation:
"And tell me, my child, what do you define as moderately hot?"
"Hmmm....moderately hot?" I try to think of an answer that will make the priest think highly of me. "Um, maybe ninety-two, Father?"
"Ninety-two is a little high for moderate, my child. But yes...I see. If you're going for saint-hood I do believe ninety-two, even with 70% humidity is bearable. I suppose you might say it's more like a warm purgatory than actual hell itself," and a spontaneous, "HA!" erupts as Father Whoever laughs at his own joke.
"So yes. I'll have to agree, turning on air-conditioning when it's only 92 degrees is a venial sin. For your penance say 92 Hail Marys (for the heat) and 70 Our Fathers (for the humidity) and please try to be more disciplined in your life if you desire sainthood. When you're tempted to turn the thermostat down to 80, resist. Keep the setting high, my child, unless you're pregnant, dying, or a very generous contributor to the church. Do it for the poor souls in purgatory, my child, and to help stop global warming."
There Goes Sainthood
But I admit, I often fail and continue to persist in air-conditioning sinning. It's not all my fault! My husband walks around gagging and coughing; moaning, and whining, "It's hot in here, for Pete's sake, can't we just turn on the air conditioner?"
Well, there ya go...what can I do? I have to turn the thing on for his sake I convince myself. But after a few hours of heavenly comfort, I start asking myself, "Am I only lying to me?" And then the moral wrestling inside my head begins.
My "right" side of the brain, as in socially-conscious-right, reminds me that there are people in Somalia, South Africa, and Arizona who don't use air conditioners. "You're just an ugly soft American - not even able to take a little heat," I tell myself.
"No," I argue back to my brain, "I need to be able to think clearly to do my work Besides, I'm pasty white with .002% of melatonin in my skin and nothing to block the heat or the sun."
Ah, but then - a brutal rebuttal from the right, "For heaven sake, your father worked in a factory for 45 years without air-conditioning."
Hmmm...that is a tough one. My mind goes back to that time in Milwaukee when my father would come home from work drained, his khaki shirt soaked with sweat from working all day in the stockroom at Kearney and Trecker. He tried not to be crabby as he'd report to my mom that it was "hotter than Billy-hell" in the shop today." One summer it was so hot that my dad gave up trying to sleep in our hot apartment, folded up the army blanket, and marched my mom and me down to McKinley beach to sleep on the shores of Lake Michigan close to downtown Milwaukee. (It was one of the best nights of my life!)
Our First Air-Conditioner
By 1955 though, my father couldn't take trying to sleep in the heat anymore. It was that year, we went to Sears and bought a Fedders room air conditioner. I remember the name because the whole process was a big decision-making deal. He and my mom lugged that three-quarter ton thing up two flights to our apartment. (I remember the "three-quarter ton" because my father kept mentioning it whenever he spoke of our new addition to the family.)
After getting our Fedders through our apartment door, my dad spent that whole Saturday "seating" it properly in the windowsill so it wouldn't fall on the head of anyone below walking on Farwell Ave. Of course, the first few days resulted in a bit of "over-chill." So we tried adjusting the knobs back and forth: inside air-outside air, high fan-high cool, high fan-low cool, low fan-high cool, or low fan-low cool. Eventually we able to sit in the living room without our sweaters on and enjoy "the air."
We truly appreciated that air conditioner and honored it. It became like a living, breathing god who sat in our living room window, whirring with power. My father continued to adjust Our Gray Mightiness on a daily basis. He cleaned the filters. He cut new wood blocks to support it more firmly. He yelled at my mom and me if we let hot air in. (It was a challenge just to get in and out of the door as fast as my father required. I got bruised by quickly closing doors a lot that first summer.) And even though my father and mother were happy to see me inside the air-conditioning house while they worked, being a good Catholic child, I felt morally weak enjoying the cool air while my dad worked in a hot factory and my mother checked groceries in Mr. Tempkin's hot market across the street. I tried to finish my inside summer chores quickly and go out to play under the blazing hot sun, but sometimes doing the dishes and vacuuming the carpet inside our 70-degree air-conditioned apartment took half a day.Mea Culpa.
Why Are You Reading This?
In my adult life, I have tried to be conservative in my air conditioning use. After all, I was part of the hippie generation, and for all the erroneous impressions of us, we were nothing if not environmentally aware and conscientious. And of course Al Gore, our contemporary, finally revealed the inconvenient truth about the global changes that we predicted, (ahem).
So in case any of you reading this essay happens to be working in Research and Development in the fields of universal geothermal energy, parabolic mirror powered sterling engines, bio-diesel reactors, solar updraft towers, hot fusion or giant invisible wind turbine technology, I have a question for you: "Why in the heck are you sitting there, wasting time reading this??? Stop ditsy-ing around and get back to work finding an energy-efficient, guilt-free way for us to turn on our air-conditioning! The world needs you! "It's a moral imperative," as the character Chris Knight in the movie Real Genius would say. There simply aren't enough confessionals for all of us to visit to confess our air-conditioning sins. And not many of us want to continue keeping the thermostat at 92 and risk our "hot spouses" divorcing us.