Monday, May 30, 2005

In praise of AC

I grew up in a part of the country that only took off, population wise, after the advent of air conditioning. I went rapidly from my air conditioned house to my air conditioned car (but oh, the burning of those leather seats!) and tried to be outdoors as little as possible. In Houston, air was the enemy: pollen, humidity, heat.

Upon arriving at college in the desert, my only criterion for a dorm was that it be air conditioned and the first fights with my roommate were over her unsettling tendency to interfere with my 72 degree climate controlled bliss. Growing up in a house without AC on the coast had clearly done something to her brain. (Why on earth would you not want to be nice and cool? What is this "breeze" you speak of? The frosty breeze coming out of the vent is all I want.)

Moving to Boston marked the first time I'd lived in a place without AC, period. No window unit, no nothing. Just me and my fan. Luckily (I thought, at least, before the cumulative effect of three years of winter heaters had desiccated my skin) Boston does not really require artificial cooling during the months of the school year. But there's always a few weeks when it starts to get, if not hot, stuffy. I begin to appreciate breezes. But there's something else great about AC, something I only noticed recently. It gives you privacy. The ability to stay cool without opening windows means you can shut out noise, not just from outside, but from inside the houses of neighbors with open windows. You don't have to sleep on your porch. You can wrap yourself in a bubble and never worry if you closed and latched all the windows before you went out.

Some people might think this is just part and parcel of the greater sense of isolation in American life. Crying babies, whooping kiddies, and neighborly conversations should be tolerated, even appreciated. But the sound of silence, marred only by the gentle huff of the air conditioner, is something beautiful.
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