Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Ballad of the Air Conditioner

I have a confession to make: some of this eco-stuff is hard to do. Yesterday my wife and I spent a substantial amount of time staring at our poor, neglected air conditioner (yes, that's ours). It is hot here. It is very, very hot. However, we haven't hooked it up. We have struggled on in the theory that--while we have promised ourselves that we would use it oh so rarely--we would be somehow giving in to our darker sides. At some moments it seems to be our savior from discomfort and at others our little air conditioner is some sort of gateway drug. It is the slippery slope to some as-of-yet to be experienced environmental horror. Perhaps we will take up attacking manatees with our (hitherto unpurchased or concieved) power boats. Our children will no longer respect us. We will be hypocrites. The sky is the limit, really (our heat-addled minds tell us) once we plug in our personal refrigeration unit and sleep that special sleep reserved for those whose homes are 66 degrees.

This is the only air conditioner I have ever owned. We bought it after we came to Burbania and my wife became pregnant with our third child. Over one long hot summer it kept her (and by extention, me) cool and comfortable at night. On particularly hot nights the kids would come in our room and sleep on the floor. This is the appliance that brought us all closer together that summer. It made August survivable. It brought us joy. Since then it has been used less. It had languished in an ethical nether-region brought about by changed circumstances. No longer pregnant, it became harder to make use of its cooling powers guilt-free. So this year it didn't come down stairs in July. It didn't even make its appearance in the beginning days of August.

This is not so say that we haven't made use of its cousins! Far from it. When we were in Chicago, where I was studying for my doctorate, we used the air conditioner in our room. When we visited my father in Manhattan, we did not hesitate to use his air conditioner, reasoning that we were on vacation. Others eat and drink to excess when they are away from home. We refrigerate. The week we returned, however, the average temperature has been around 92 degrees. I realize that southerners may scoff at this, but for New Englanders this is as close to Hell as we believe we will ever get! Suddenly we have remembered our neglected friend and arguments have broken out as one of us weakens, only to have his or her spine stiffened by the other.

Yesterday I almost broke. I went up to the attic and hunted around for it. The lightbulb had blown out and it was dark as well as triple-digits warm. I found a bee's nest but fortunately no one of consequence was home. Finally I emerged dirty and smelly with my prize and placed it in the middle of the floor, prepared to begin the ritual of installation. But my wife (her name is Allison, I don't belive I have mentioned that before) stopped me. However, neither of us had the strength to carry it back up to the attic, out of sight if not out of mind. So there it remains for us to step over and around, at once both taunting and pleading, waiting for the moment of our mutual weakness.
This is summer folks. This is temptation.

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