Meditations on trials of modern air conditioning
I hate air conditioning, institutional AC that is, not car or even one’s home where it can be regulated. I think AC turns us inward, content in an artificial world of self-indulgence. I think only of myself and suffer when a manager at a restaurant or a grocery store or a professor in a college classroom says, “We cannot change the temperature; it originates somewhere else.” That somewhere else is usually hidden in a control panel in a subterranean room where only the jailer has the key. If ever I have felt a prisoner, it is being compelled to sit in an expensive restaurant next to a vent hurling cold air onto my neck and back. I have been reduced to wrapping not only a slight sweater around my shoulders but also several napkins. In a fit of despair I once had a waiter put a serving tray on top of a register that blew cold air onto my legs and up my skirt. Marilyn Monroe should have such troubles. Try price comparison while shaking from subzero ambient AC at your local food chain. I now take a winter jacket along with my purse and sacks, an extra burden when outside it is a fine 85 while inside a terrifying 65. I am furious at being a victim of such commercial universalism, not to mention my own individual surrender to out-of-control “control panels.”
Growing up mostly without AC, I remember summers where we did our own regulating. We had screened-in porches or front stoops to sit on. Lots can happen on those stoops. Parents monitored kids running through lawn sprinklers or playing in an opened fire hydrant. They gossiped and fanned and forgot the oppressive heat. If one didn’t have a porch, my husband recalled how people brought sleeping gear to the green spaces in downtown Cincinnati during the searing summer heat of the middle ’30s. People under adversity assembled, connected and shared their misery, somehow mitigating its impact.
Attending church before AC, I sat behind John Galbreath, the then richest man in Columbus, owner of Darby Dan Farms and the Pittsburgh Pirates. He handled a pew fan as well as the rest of us.
In the country it got hot, too. A cold glass of hand-squeezed lemonade brought to the hay field altered, if not the atmosphere, an attitude. Or hand-cranked ice cream set in motion before a Sunday meal and left to “ripen” for an afternoon treat went a long way toward agreeable company. The sweet, soft, cold iced cream floated down the throat and let us for a short while forget about weather and enjoy our family and friends.
Sylvia Zimmerman is the owner of Fulton Creek Jersey Cheese in Richwood. She holds two graduate degrees and, when not working on her farm or pursuing her interest in sustainable agriculture, writes her own blog.