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Air Conditioning - the Path To Hell

Updated on July 10, 2017

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.


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    • Billie Kelpin profile imageAUTHOR

      Billie Kelpin 

      7 years ago from Newport Beach

      Imoyer92 So sorry I didn't see this comment. I can't believe the snow! Even in Milwaukee, the scene of this story, we get inundated with snow. They had snow in MN today! April 17. Here's to a beautiful spring!

    • lmoyer92 profile image

      Leon Moyer 

      7 years ago

      I suppose on the bright side, you don't have to worry much about the horrendous snow in the winter that we have in New York (I'm right on the PA border). Yesterday it was about 14 degrees... I thought winter was over

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      7 years ago from North Texas

      We didn't have a/c when I was growing up in Wisconsin and our idea of hot up there is 80 degrees and up. Then I moved to Texas.

      I learned the meaning of HOT, just as I learned the meaning of COLD (-39 was the lowest I ever experienced up there with a good windchill) in Wisconsin.

      Just today one of my coworkers was wearing her winter coat and complaining that it was cold -- 73 degrees and high humidity. Muggy, and too hot for me!! I can stand the cold, but not the heat. I have no qualms or even a teeny tiny smidgeon of guilt for keeping my own central a/c on very low, 65 degrees or so, and I try not to go outside at all if it's over 80 degrees here. 100+ temps are common in summer and just these last few weeks we've endured temps in the mid to upper 90s. We're having a cool spell right now with rain and temps in the 50s -- I love it!!

      Just FYI, my July/August electric bills, made up mainly of running my a/c, run about $175 a month and now when it's cooled off some (90s) my bill is more around $100-125.00. Soon I'll get a couple of months of decent electric bills -- $60-75.00 a month when no heat or a/c is necessary. Life is too short to spend it sweltering in this God awful heat down here, and I live in an apartment where a breeze, even if the windows could be opened, does not exist (900 sq. ft.).

      Here people start wearing their long johns and bundling up in winter coats and knitted hats and mittens when the thermometer dips under 90 degrees. Yup, 90, it's not a typo. Standing right next to those bundled up freezing Texans are the Yankees in their short shorts, tank tops, and flip-flops! Now that is a sight for tourists to behold if they can't find anything else interesting to see around here. That is the situation when temps are between 65-90 degrees. We Yankees imagine 60 is warm, can you believe it? ;)

      Enjoyed your essay!

    • Billie Kelpin profile imageAUTHOR

      Billie Kelpin 

      7 years ago from Newport Beach

      CraftytotheCore, How cute! We can relate. Fortunately, we're selling our house and I have a great "out"! People could walk in to view our house at any time, and my realtor said I need to keep it on. Potential buyers certainly don't want to walk into "Hades"! So I've been running that marvelous wonder guilt-free for 3 weeks! Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa LOLO

    • CraftytotheCore profile image


      7 years ago

      Thank you for a good laugh! Oh my, I know the feeling. Yesterday, going on mid-September here in the Northeast USA was hotter than hades and yet for some reason I just couldn't pull myself to turn on that money-sucking machine. I sat here in sweat puddles until my husband came home and said it was like a steam bath in here. LOL

    • Billie Kelpin profile imageAUTHOR

      Billie Kelpin 

      7 years ago from Newport Beach

      Justsilvie, you're a stitch - "when humidity numbers sound like it should be raining" - brilliant. I too have S.O.S./Brillo Pad hair. Made it really hard to be a credible hippie. Cheers and thanks for stopping by :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Loved this. I have to admit I love COLD so when it heats up and the humidity numbers sound like it should be raining I turn it on and pray for an early fall. I have a hair test. When it becomes a frizzy bush, I know its time to cool the place down.

    • Billie Kelpin profile imageAUTHOR

      Billie Kelpin 

      8 years ago from Newport Beach

      I think you did! Thanks for stopping by. Need to check out your great dog hubs SOON so my little Scooter can feel better.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 

      8 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      The road to hell is paved with good air conditioners.

      (Now who said that, anyway?)

    • Billie Kelpin profile imageAUTHOR

      Billie Kelpin 

      8 years ago from Newport Beach

      Beth, Thank you! You made my day. The guilt has served me well. And "yes" it is generational. In the 60s and 70s we were extremely conscious of our effect on the environment and, even without Catholic guilt, were driven to try to do our part to be responsible to the environment. This included limiting ourselves to two children per family (none of my friends had more than 2 children - our social group would have thought them to be irresponsible.) We recycled diligently, looked to alternative fuels, and studied the effects globally on emissions from automobiles. Then the major auto companies colluded to postpone setting up emission standards, Reagan took down the solar panels Jimmy Carter put up on the White House, and it all went to hell in the proverbial handbasket. So I think we gave up - besides we had to get the kids to their karate and dance classes. It's out of our hands except those of us who are going to protest the re-opening of the San Onofry power plant. Oh, don't get me started. Thanks, sweet Beth.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      You are SO funny. I enjoy your personality very much. And I don't know why you say you aren't Catholic anymore, you sure have that guilt thing going in spades. ;)

      My mom lives in AZ and doesn't turn on the air most the day... I think she's crazy... it's gotta be a generational thing. I hate the heat, don't like the cold much the older I get too. lol

    • Billie Kelpin profile imageAUTHOR

      Billie Kelpin 

      8 years ago from Newport Beach

      Jan, glad you liked the essay and btw, I want to thank you profusely for your answer to my Twitter question. I'm going to leave a comment there. You helped me immensely with your generous reply! Best of Wishes, Billie. PS So does it go: "Bless me google for I have sinned..."?

    • JanMaklak profile image


      8 years ago from Canada

      Nice post. LOL I think I'm doing more Hail Mary's than you. I live off Lake Ontario and it is always so humid here. A/C goes on at 70. BTW you can do confession on line now!

    • Billie Pagliolo profile image

      Billie Pagliolo 

      9 years ago from Laguna Hills, California

      Thank you for taking the time to comment, Ronny. I think you mean "cuckoo" bird. Crazy eyes - that bird! But maybe it's true that I am: "The cuckoos are also generally a shy and retiring family, more often heard than seen." That might be me! This article is all tongue-in-cheek, of course, but that's not to say that I don't feel we all have a moral responsibility to this beautiful place we inhabit because I do feel that way. If there is a chance that something we do just might affect others in a positive way somewhere down the line, it's in the nature of each of us to try, don't you think? "I expect to pass through this world but once: if therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again. ..." (this quote is generally credited to Grellet, but without proven attribution)

    • profile image

      ronny Townsend 

      9 years ago

      ur a cookoo bird i suppose u still use candles

    • Billie Pagliolo profile image

      Billie Pagliolo 

      11 years ago from Laguna Hills, California


      Attic Fan! You're RIGHT! And what about those amazing ceiling fans? Thanks for your comment!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      One word: ATTIC FAN!!!! (oops, two words, but one device: a whole house attic fan. Problem solved.

    • windmillw profile image


      11 years ago from Newport Beach, CA

      Thanks AndreRollins!


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