Thursday, August 25, 2016

Never Too Hot to Handle

Allow me to brag for a moment.

July 2016 was the hottest month on record according to NASA, and just about every other science nerd institution that pays people to monitor such things in hermetically sealed buildings across the country.

Certainly in Richmond it was a scorcher.

Yet, for the 24th year in a row, I eschewed air conditioning. It's not like I don't have central air retrofitted to my 1876 apartment, it's just that I've never turned it on in seven plus years of living here. For the other 17 years of living as Mother Nature intended during summer, I chose to live in un-air-conditioned residences.

My reasons are myriad, but let's start with how unnatural it is to be cool and comfortable in the south during the summer. You may be able to separate yourself from your body's natural responses, but I can't. I actually like that feeling of sweat working its way down my chest or back.

What air conditioning devotees (who, in a Venn diagram, overlap almost entirely with cell phone owners) refuse to acknowledge is that by being in climate-controlled spaces so much during the summer, your body's ability to deal with heat is severely compromised.

Even long-time friends who've accepted this eccentricity of mine aren't above looking at me with disdain, say on a patio or rooftop bar, and saying some version of, "You're not even sweating, are you?"

No, I'm not because my body is acclimated to dealing with heat, just as yours was at one time.

It's not like I don't sweat because I am slick with it after walking six miles every morning in this weather, but I also walk four miles an hour, so I'm not exactly lollygagging, either. But sitting outside, having a drink in 90 degree weather? That's hardly sweat-worthy once you're used to your apartment thermostat climbing to (occasionally above) 95.

Embracing summer would be reason enough for living outside societal norms, but the benefits pile on far beyond my preference for summers more reminiscent of those from my childhood.

My July electric bill was $38, how about yours? My carbon footprint is smaller than my actual footprint (although I don't exactly have petite feet) and I'm among the few who aren't contributing to global warming for the sake of sweater weather in July and August and, being an old hippie, that gives me a great deal of satisfaction.

But, honestly, I turned my back on A/C to enhance the quality of my life.

When I looked at this apartment initially, every window was painted shut and I immediately told my landlord-to-be that I wouldn't take it unless every window opened easily and had screens. Already pegging me for a long-term rental gem, he accommodated. Two years ago, he had storm windows put in so my 19th century windows were a bit more air tight during polar vortexes.

Open windows are like porch sitting; they involved you in the goings-on of your neighborhood.

I hear people riding bikes a block before they pass my windows, their voices projecting ahead of their tires. Snippets of pedestrian conversation and car music drift up from the street (hearing Al Green blasting from an open car window has been known to cause spontaneous harmonizing ), along with the hum of cicadas at night and birds in the morning.

Granted, I also hear the trash truck on Wednesdays, the neighbor's hound alerting his parents to people in the alley and VCU's catastrophic siren, but, really, that's all just part and parcel of city life, like dings on your bumpers from daily parallel parking. If you want to feel isolated from the world (and maintain pristine bumpers), move to the suburbs or country.

And did I mention the perks of living without A/C beyond your physiology, the planet, your wallet and neighborliness?

When the mercury climbs precariously high in my apartment, I take that as summer giving me permission to wallow in it. That means cool showers, heat naps with three fans pointed directly at me, reading in my north-facing bedroom or on the shaded balcony and ice cream, lots of ice cream.

It means that there are times when I don't do anything at all because it's simply too hot. Summer was like that when I was a kid and it's still like that.

I ask you, what other season extends such glorious goof-off opportunities?


  1. I just read that on my cell phone in an air conditioned room.

  2. You're right about your feet.

  3. Who the hell looks at my FEET?