Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Dictator in Chief

Across the country, people are suffering under the thumb of a cruel overlord. In the city, as they walk past the open doors of storefronts, lobbies, and loading docks, they are taunted with too-brief tastes of air-conditioned freedom. Even the breeze is unwelcome; abrading with flame, even in the shade.

Here in the city, we're forced into some contact with the heat. Most of us have to walk to/back from the subway, to work, to play, and we have to endure the airless ovens sometimes called subway platforms. In comparison, there are a fair amount of burban folks who only encounter the elements in the parking lot: at work, at the store, at home. Going from inddor garage to indoor garage, one could cut out contact with the outside air almost entirely. Maybe we're just preparing ourselves for a not-too-distant time when upper nineties are the norm. But city or suburb or country people who work in air conditioned offices and return to air conditioned homes have nothing on those who work outdoors. Construction workers, road crews, hot dog vendors, panhandlers, etc. They can't escape the heat. Imagine being a firefighter, having to wear all that gear in this heat, and then rushing into a burning building. Then there are the many without any AC at home. They can't afford it, or their building's wiring can't handle it. For them, it's a time of going to the movies and dropping by the Met, I guess.

I sometimes think: "How did people manage before the advent of air conditioning?" For one, many more people died during heat waves. I think a secondary explanation is that you can't long for what doesn't exist. And, if you never have AC, you may better acclimate to the heat over the course of the summer, instead of exposing yourself to large temperature swings.


vacuous said...

In a lot of the buildings around where I live (businesses and publiuc buildings) the AC is cranked way down, to like 65 or something. Not only is that profligate use of energy, but it makes the outside seem super uncomfortable. Of course 95 will feel terrible when you cross the threshold of a store and encounter a 30 degree temperature differential. Now I'm not claiming that 95 shouldn't feel hot, just that it doesn't have to be quite as uncomfortable as it sometimes seems.

By the way, I hate it when subway platforms turn into ovens. That's one of the most miserable places I've been in the heat. But look at the bright side. At least it's not hotter.

beckett said...

I bet stores have found that people shop more/spend more when they're cold.

I do admit, I like to crank a hotel room's AC down to 65, then sleep under the comforter.