Love it or hate it: Air conditioning

by David Holub

Love itMy mom and her seven siblings grew up in the sweltering heat and humidity of Houston, Texas, in a house the size of most modern-day American kitchens. They did this, mind you, with only the help of open windows and fans. Staying at my grandmother’s muggy, stifling house as a child, I decided that no matter what I did, air conditioning would be central. I assured myself at a young age that nearly every bit of happiness there is to be had in life begins with air conditioning.

And oh how true. I love driving through the desert in 100-degree temperatures, feeling the heat on the closed windows, chilling out to music, feeling the cold breeze pulsing from the vents and feeling sorry for the jackrabbits and lizards for not being so lucky.

I love checking in to a hotel after a day of whatever – a long dayhike, an unbearable work conference, 10 hours on the interstate – closing the shades, getting takeout delivered to my room, watching some trashy docu-drama, and cranking the AC until it’s five degrees cooler than I’d ever think of having it at home.

In hot and humid climates, the commonplace of air conditioning has improved the quality of life for millions, many of them otherwise poor. I know it uses energy (perhaps?!) unnecessarily and can perpetuate human attitudes of entitlement, making us soft and ill-equipped for life outside. But our ability to control the climates of our enclosed spaces is nothing short of a triumph of humanity.

— David HolubHate itYou’re sitting on your bed on a summer evening – tank top, iced drink. It’s warm, but not unbearable. Wafting through the windows – crickets, lush summer smells. Then, someone is too hot. The AC goes on. The windows get closed. No more crickets. No more soft night air.

I’m not a fan of heat. Quite the opposite. But I hate how AC blocks out the world. I hate the irony of air conditioning a stuffy hotel room on a cool night because the windows are hermetically sealed.

The worst thing about air conditioning is how it leads to over-air-conditioning, to being stuck in freezing cold restaurants in clothes that are laughably inadequate. What were you thinking, wearing that gauzy skirt and spaghetti straps? It’s 90 degrees out and you didn’t bring a sweater? How silly! That ice cold summer seasonal is out of the question. The tip of your nose is cold. You can’t talk to anyone. You need a shot of whiskey, a hot toddy, a blazing fire.

But – here’s more irony – if it’s January and 60 degrees in your house, it’s either because your heater’s broken or you think that wearing three layers, a scarf and fingerless gloves as you type is “romantic.”

No, we crank up the heat until it’s the same temperature that, in summer, makes us lose our minds. We strut around in T-shirts. Can’t we just agree to be a little cold in winter and a little warm in summer?

— Kateri Kosek


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