Last night, as I was climbing into bed, my husband installed our little rickety air conditioner into the front window of our bedroom. (I say "rickety" just because I like the word, not because there's anything wrong with our air conditioner that can't be fixed by an extension cord and several old towels stuffed between it and the window frame.) In a few short minutes, the temperature in our room had dropped by at least ten degrees. I pulled the covers up to my chin and murmured, "I love air conditioning."
"Really?" my husband asked, incredulous. His tone indicated that he thought I was lying, or delirious, or just babbling as a result of my half-conscious state. Just before I drifted off to sleep, I had an epiphany: I must write an extensive blog post explaining my feelings about air conditioning, because there seem to be a few misconceptions floating about.
The misconceptions are rational and are based on scientific observation of my behavior in air-conditioned situations. I wear heavy sweatshirts to the movie theater in August. When we go on long drives in the summer, I bring a fleece blanket to shield me from the cold air vents on the dashboard. I plead with the driver to turn the air conditioning down. My teeth chatter. Today it's something like eighty degrees Fahrenheit outside, and I am in my office in a floor-length maxi dress and a big sweater. I have piles of papers all along the window vents, blocking the assault of Arctic air on my space. I am completely comfortable.
I have always disliked the sensation of chilled air hitting my bare skin. I find it unpleasant to be cold. I assume this is because I am female, which means my body naturally focuses on keeping my core warm, leaving my extremities to fend for themselves in the breeze. In the winter, I need hats, gloves, and scarves, heavy blankets, and several layers of clothing. From late October to early April, I am a big fan of warm socks, preferably of the homemade variety, worn all day and all night. Don't misunderstand: I love winter. I just don't like being uncomfortably cold.
And sometimes air conditioning is uncomfortably cold.
It is the very nature of the beast that makes it uncomfortable. Air conditioning seems to consist, usually, of a chill artificial wind, forced through some small vent, right into my face. Were it merely a vague, unforced lowering of the ambient temperature, I would not mind it at all. I happen to think that the ideal temperature for a comfortably-clad human body is something like seventy degrees Fahrenheit. If that goal could be achieved without blowing winter all over my poor goosebumped skin, I'd be thrilled.
Summer in the New York area, at its most intense, consists of unrelenting heat and humidity, punctuated by the occasional violent late-day thunderstorm. I am as happy as the next person to be in a dry, cooled-down space, or to jump into a pool or lake to take the edge off the heat. I love going to the movies, sitting in a cool, dark room munching popcorn. I even like driving in an air-conditioned car, as long as the vents are pointed away from my face and arms (or I have some sort of clothing to shield me from the direct assault). Fans are nice, but often not sufficient.
What I meant last night, before I drifted off to sleep, is that I love being comfortable. A cool bedroom, a big fluffy blanket, the monotonous hum of that rickety box (muffled by the towels): heaven for a very tired mom.