Monday, July 12, 2010

You Don't Know What You've Got....Until It's Gone...

So, it’s come to my attention after now whining in my last two blogs about my lack of air conditioning that I may be a wee bit spoiled.

After all, when I was growing up in the UK, we didn’t have air conditioning. I don’t think I even remember knowing what air conditioning was. During the English summer, in my area at least, we would have a few really hot days in the summer where it went up over 80. Of course, being a little island, that means it was 80 degrees with a lot of humidity. Mostly, though, summer days weren’t intolerable. We expected it to be warm but not too hot, most of the time, at least. Since we moved to the U.S., it seems global warming has affected the UK and they do have a lot more heat over there. My relatives and British friends are always talking about how hot it gets. I’m not sure what the status of air conditioning is over in the UK but I venture to guess it’s still not as prominent over there as it is here in the U.S.

In fact, my very first memory of arriving in the U.S. was in August. When we got off the plane, we were met with a wall of heat that seemed so thick, it was difficult to breathe. When we went into the airport, it was freezing. The air felt…weird. It took me a while to get used to air conditioning though it didn’t take too long for me to appreciate it. The house we moved into was an old farmhouse and it didn’t have air conditioning. In the summer, we sweated and roasted and would find ways to cool down- going to shopping malls, going to the pool, etc. The nights were hot and sticky. I would lie in my room, too hot to sleep and listen to the honk of the Canadian geese that were swimming in our neighbours ponds over the road. I remember those nights well. There was the sound of cicadas, of crickets, of the odd bird chirping, all intertwined with the honking of those geese.

When the sun rose and we’d get up the next morning, I remember getting up earlier than I did during less hot days. The mornings were cooler and I’d go outside to appreciate the fresher air than was in the house. As the day went on, the heat increased but there gets to a point in the house where it can’t get that much hotter- it’s just plain…hot.

After a few years of this, my dad caved and bought one of those window air conditioners. We’d gather in the living room where it was situated and breathe a sigh of relief. It did little for the hot nights, particularly for my sister, brother and I who all slept upstairs, but it was a pleasant relief in the evenings before bed.

Naturally, after I went to college, my parents had central air installed. For the summers I was home, it was a nice change from the hot nights. They also moved my bedroom downstairs and I could no longer hear the sound of the honking geese, nor any other night sounds since I now slept with the windows closed.

Ironically, nowadays, when I visit my parents, I stay in my first room- the upstairs one. The air conditioning sort of reaches up there but doesn’t keep it too cool so I use a fan. I also sleep with the window open and get to hear the sounds of the summer night again. I like that.

What my point comes down to is that I managed to survive years without air conditioning. Nowadays, if it breaks, I have a little whine and moan and act like it’s the end of the world. Granted, it did go out at the worst time- the night prior to taking the puppies in to get spayed and two days after when it was important to keep the pups comfortable- but…still. I acted like a prima donna, like it was my divine right to have working air conditioning.
Of course, my whining was probably influenced by the fact that I was covered with a layer of sweat, had two panting puppies at my feet and only warm, sultry air flowing through the house with no cooling, comfortable breeze to make it tolerable.

I’m obviously conflicted. I know it’s possible to live without air conditioning but since I’ve experienced life without it- both recently and in the past- I don’t want to live without it. This of course makes me sound a bit like an awful human being- after all, lots of people don’t have AC- the starving children in Africa, the third world countries and lots of people in Europe.

In my guilt at feeling like a spoiled whiner, I did some searching on the internet about how people lived without air conditioning. I came across a blog post by a lady who offered tips based on how she lives without air conditioning. She wants to save the money it costs over a summer to run the AC. Her tips included making sure you don’t go into any place that has AC: You don’t know what you’re missing until you experience it. Also, she doesn’t cook indoors but grills out every day, using picnic-style foods to feed her family. Also, the coolest room in the house is the living room so she and her kids camp out in the living room over the summer months.

Now, while I salute her attempts to save a few dollars, I can’t help wonder how her kids feel. My guess is that they go to their friends a lot. They can’t have much company in their house because they obviously have a bit of a muddle in their living room due to the ‘campout’ situation. Also, as a guest, it can’t be too comfortable in a humid, hot house. Also, while I’m quite fond of grilled foods, I couldn’t eat them
everyday. There’s only so many sandwiches and salads you can eat before you start wanting a nice, non-grilled, homecooked meal

My guess is that when they get older, that lady’s kids are going to be the ones who crank their air conditioning up so it’s only 60 degrees in their houses. I’ve met a few of these people and when you find yourself wishing for winter woolies while visiting them in August…you know they HAD to have grown up without AC.

I suppose my point is that, as humans, once you get used to something, it’s hard to lose it. It can be a relationship, a pair of comfy socks, Cost Plus World Market (at least in this area), a chocolate bar you were craving, only to discover it’s a melted, inedible mess….the list is endless.

You just don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Especially when it’s air conditioning.
Happy Tuesday!

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