Sunday, July 11, 2010

Keeping Warm, Keeping Cool

This time about five months ago, it was colder than a well digger's ankles, colder than a penguin's backside, colder than a witch's ... uh ... bosom ... in a brass bra, colder than a mortgage banker's heart, colder than a ... well ... you get the picture. We had more than 24 inches of snow in our neighborhood, and couldn't get our car up the hill for about 4 days.

That was then, this is now.

Now, it's hotter than a two-dollar pistol, hotter than a Republican enraged by the very existence of the word liberal in the English language, hotter than a Saudi imam aghast at the sight of the smallest glimpse of uncovered female flesh, hotter than the hinges on the door to the boiler room of Hell in August.

It's hot, and I join everyone else in the metro area in bitching and complaining about it every bit as much as we bitched and complained about the cold back in February. There's just no satisfying some people, is there?

Which brings us to the topic of air conditioning ... or the lack thereof. Consider this interesting article from the Washington Post's "Department of What-If" this morning - "Try to Imagine D.C. Without So Much A.C."

If you've visited or lived in the nation's capital, you know how miserably hot and humid it can get here in the summer. The heat and humidity fall on you like a heavy, wet blanket, and a two-block walk to the bus stop leaves you wishing you'd used the time you spent taking a shower on something more useful. Every home, shop, office building and automobile is air-conditioned, and one of the angriest and most frequent complaints about the less-than-stellar performance of our public transit system is that the air conditioning doesn't work. In the summer, D.C. runs on A.C.

But it wasn't always that way. People survived perfectly well here without air conditioning all the way through the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World Wars I and II. The weather conditions were just as miserable, but people learned to cope, just as they cope every day in tropical regions where A.C. is not viewed as a fundamental necessity of life.

The article from today's Post talks about ways in which Washington might be different without our slavish reliance on air conditioning. We could close offices in the summer, wear loose cotton shirts (without neckties, YAY!!), and make more use of ceiling fans. We could use lighter-colored, heat-reflecting shingles and tiles on our roofs, and grill our meals outside instead of cooking them in a 450-degree oven in the kitchen. And who knows? - if we actually left the refrigerated sanctuary of our air-conditioned homes, we might meet our neighbors and develop better social lives.

The biggest benefit might come if we actually went back to the days before air conditioning, when Congress took a summer recess to beat the heat. Wouldn't it be nice if there was a period of a few months when, as New York Times columnist Russell Baker is quoted in the Post article as writing, "...the nation (could enjoy) a respite from the promulgation of more laws, the depredations of lobbyists, the hatching of new schemes for Federal expansion and, of course, the cost of maintaining a government running at full blast"?

Just imagine...

And, for the record, I'm writing this on my laptop, on the deck, in the shade of an umbrella. There's a little bit of a breeze, but it's just enough to make it bearable. But because there's only so much a spoiled man can take, I think I'll go back inside.

Have a good day. Stay cool. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

3 comments:

Mike said...

"a well digger's ankles"

I read that and thought 'somethings not right about this'.

John said...

I often wonder how much of a difference AC makes in the "outdoor" temperature. After all, AC is really just a heat exchange system, transferring heat from the air inside to the air outside.

If all of the homes and businesses in a metropolitan area stopped pumping hot air to the outside, would it lower the outdoor temperature?

Just wondering...

SusieQ said...

If we had no air-conditioners, we'd have a good excuse for taking siestas in the middle of the day.