Nine months is a long time to wait.
Late last September, confident that summer’s brutal temperatures were finally finished, I flipped the thermostat in my house from COOL to OFF. I threw open the windows and turned on the ceiling fans. And I didn’t call upon my air conditioner again—not once!–until July 1, seven days ago. (I did, however, turn on the heat in the winter. I’m not that crazy.) When I told friends and family about my no-air conditioning challenge, many were aghast.
“Why be miserable?” some wondered.
“What are you trying to prove?” others asked.
“You must have a screw loose,” a few said.
I told them none of those things were true. I simply wanted to try to get along without air conditioning, as humans have done since the beginning of time, through the month of June. I live in a house perfect for such an experiment. The windows are easy to open and close. The house has porches, so I can move outside whenever there’s a breeze to be enjoyed. The yard has lots of shade trees.
Best of all, since there’s no one here with me except the dog (who can’t complain), no one begs me to turn on the A/C.
It’s hard to remember, with sweltering July upon us, that our cool spring lasted a long time. I kept a light jacket handy. I wasn’t chomping at the bit to go swimming. I could walk or ride my bike in the middle of the day without risking heat stroke. But as we passed the summer solstice, things began to heat up. Storms rolled through. The humidity spiked. I began to question whether I’d make it. With temps predicted in the high nineties for June 30, I needed a plan. It would be a shame to cave with only one day left to go.
Early morning and late evening would be no problem. It was mid-day that worried me. Ninety-five degrees is hot, even wearing shorts and a tank top and sitting under a fan and guzzling iced tea. But I had options. The first was the library, one of my favorite places in town, where it’s cool and relatively quiet. Maybe I could snag one of the private study rooms and get some writing done. If I grew tired of writing and wanted to read, a world of books and newspapers and magazines was waiting just outside that study room door.
Or I could go to Walmart, where there’s air conditioning and lots of chairs for sale. I could pull a chair into an out of-the-way spot where perhaps nobody would bother me, or even notice me, for however many long, cool hours I wanted to hang out.
The most sensible option was the home of friends who were out of town for the week. I was taking in their mail and watering the flowers and feeding the cats. Their A/C had been up and running for weeks. I could chill out in their cool, dark living room until things got bearable at my house. Heck, I could even sleep in their guest room if I needed to.
But I didn’t do any of those things. I stayed home on the last day of June. I sat on the shady back porch and paid attention to the way real air felt on my skin. I watched squirrels raid the birdfeeder. I smelled my neighbors’ fresh-cut grass and the honeysuckle blooming at the edge of the woods. I listened to dogs bark and Canada geese honk. Evening fell and the temperature dropped just a little. The bullfrogs in City Lake began their “knee-deep, knee-deep, knee-deep” song, soon to be drowned out by the racket of early fireworks.
Life all around me. Life that can’t be experienced to its fullest in a hermetically sealed environment. But on July 1, I turned my air conditioning on anyway.
(July 8, 2023)