A good way to find out how really spoiled we have become is to have the house air conditioning go out on one of the three hot days of the summer.
Draping my body across the sofa like Cleopatra, putting a hand to my forehead and using a breathy, southern accent like Scarlet in “Gone with the Wind” I pronounced, “I do declare! A woman can only handle so much heat before she melts into sweet, sticky goo!” I batted my eyelashes and wished I had servants moving the air with palm leaves all around me.
Ten minutes later, accent gone, sense of humor gone, visions of scantily-clad Egyptian men with green fronds at my beck and call – all gone. I’d puffed up like a blow fish and my feet splatted on the hardwood floor.
The air conditioner repair man was called. Lucky for him ... I mean us ... he came right away and he knew how to comfort a swollen, old lady who was sweating in places she did not even know contained porous materials.
We didn’t have air conditioning when I was a kid. Sure, there were screens with holes in that we huddled around on hot summer nights, eating mosquitos for unexpected snacks. We seemed to linger in front of the refrigerator for long periods of time whenever no one was looking. We made popsicles out of Kool-Aid and the people who didn’t make them were usually the first to see that they were frozen and ate them.
We played under the canopy of trees, trying to take a deep breath that didn’t include a fly or two. We learned to sleep in what might have been the first water beds, so drippy were the sheets by morning, that some entrepreneur probably got the idea of putting that moisture to good use by bagging it up and letting people float on it.
But you don’t miss what you have never had, and air conditioning was one of those things.
“You need a new heat pump,” the repairman said. (Was that a little pity in his eyes?)
Somehow the word “heat pump” didn’t sound right to me when I was looking to cool down, but I trusted this guy. He had proven himself in the past by fixing air and heat at our children’s houses.
“I should have it here by the end of the week,” he said, while he packed up his tools. Then, denying himself anything to eat or drink, he hurried off, like a white knight, to save the next family or business from melting away.
Four days seemed like a long ways away. I tried to keep busy, but every little movement caused a flare up of puffiness and an overly-dramatic shortness of breath. I avoided using the oven and cooktop as much as possible but, of course, that wasn’t a new development. Now it just looked more legitimate.
One day there were clouds and that kept the temperature down a little. I concentrated on conjuring up the feelings of those -30 degree temperatures last January, when I swore I wouldn’t complain about the heat of summer, and that helped.
On Friday, I heard some welcomed banging on the outside of the house and swift moving legs going up and down the basement stairs.
Then I felt it. That first puff of cool air. The stillness of the house rolled away. The smell of hot metal and dust and sogginess, sucked out and blown into the hot summer sky. The air conditioner was alive again, thus, we could be alive again, too. I was so happy I baked something.
By evening, a chill was upon me. I put on a sweater. I thought I could see my breath. My teeth clinked together a little bit. My husband, too, put on a sweater. Had we started to revert to our old survival ways before air conditioning and now our systems were in shock? We went to the thermostat and saw that the temperature was set at 74 degrees. We turned it up a little bit and then went outside to warm up. We knew, though, by morning, we would be used to being spoiled again.
Either that, or winter weather will have returned.
Doreen’s new book: Farmwife Diary: A Shared Experience (Selections from Four Decades of Columns in the Farm & Ranch Guide) is now available on Amazon.com (ebook and paperback).