Goosebumps in summer

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No, it’s not from the thrill of warm-weather romance (unfortunately).

In summer, I always have two outfits on hand (or on body). One is cotton and as skimpy as societal norms will allow; the other is woolen and as long as long-sleeved can be. The former is for walking to my destination, whether it be a movie theater, a library, or an office; the latter is for being in my destination. The drastic temperature differential between indoor and outdoor spaces leads to much bothersome, chafing, and eyeglass-discombobulating donning and undonning on my part.

Me after wrestling with a tight neckhole; Photo by homegirl Carolyn Eckrich

To be fair, I err on the chilly side. (My mom, when I was new to this world, asked the pediatrician why I always looked slightly purple. The doctor responded that I had not yet adjusted to postnatal circulation. But nothing ever changed, so I guess I’m still adjusting.) But I also grew up in the Northeastern United States, so I am used to frigid, snowy weather. And though I have no official data, I have heard, over the years, similar reports from people of various body types and stages of fetal development: air-conditioned buildings are too freakin’ cold!

While entering a Whole Foods this weekend, I noticed that all the doors were opened up, allowing cooled air to stream outside wastefully. While inside, I felt like a head of iceberg lettuce and ended up purchasing a dozen cans of chicken noodle soup due to hypothermic delusions. Whole Foods is taking steps to alleviate its hypocrisy, but not in the A/C department.

I realize that process air-conditioning is crucial to keeping assembly lines at optimal temperatures and humidity levels for churning out the gadgets, gizmos, doohickies and dildos that we all need and love. I also realize that cracking a window in the Big & Tall buildings (those with 1000 stories or 1,000,000,000 square feet) just doesn’t do the trick. And I sympathize with the thousands of nonagenarians who just don’t sweat as effectively as they used to. But how about a little compromise?

The Japanese, ahead of us as usual, launched the Cool Biz campaign in government offices last summer to reduce energy consumption from air conditioners. White-collar government workers were encouraged to lose the traditional suits and dress more casually, while thermostats in office buildings were set to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. This simple change saved an estimated 460,000 tons of carbon dioxide in the summer of 2005.

In addition to giving us gooseflesh and devouring energy, air conditioning divorces people from the community. Folks who work in climate controlled buildings are excluded from the bitching that unites us all against a common enemy: heat. And what ever happened to block parties?

Frankly, I’m amazed that more Americans aren’t up in arms about A/C. Because contrary to popular belief, air conditioners are actually out to heat things up:

-The enormous (fossil fuel) energy demand of air conditioners contributes to global warming

-Air conditioners have already tried to warm up the planet through the use of ozone-depleting CFCs

-The energy demand of air conditioners can overtax the grid during peak summer temperatures, leading to power outages during which people die of heat exhaustion

-Air conditioners are composed of a hot side and a cold side. The heat from the compression of Freon gas is discharged outside the air-conditioned area, adding to the discomfort of those of us outside the cool bubble

-The Rise of Air-conditioning may have produced more Conservatives. And we all know how comfortable they are with climate change

I propose that we start a movement to subversively reverse all air conditioners, so that the hot side is on the inside. Are you with me? If this post does not motivate you to turn up your thermostat, write to your representative, or flip your neighbor’s A/C unit while laughing nastily to yourself, I hope it at least illuminates one of the absurdities of our modern world. Imagine telling someone 200 years ago that we would be wearing sweaters in August. Ha.

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