by Diane Burton
Back in the day . . . the Dark Ages, according to my kids . . . we didn’t have central air conditioning. My dad talked about putting a bowl of ice in front of a little fan when he was young. I don’t remember when we got the window air conditioning unit. Maybe I was in my teens. Anyway, central air just wasn’t a thing yet. So, we did chores and weeded the garden in the early morning when it was still cool. Afternoons, I took an old quilt and a book and found a shady spot.
Books were my constant companions. With them, I could leave the drudgery of being the oldest (“who should know better”) out in the country and visit faraway places. I could be anything I wanted—an actress, an explorer, a princess, a damsel in distress rescued by the handsome prince. LOL Books carried me away. I even helped Nancy Drew on her adventures.
Meanwhile, the little kids took naps (Mom, too) and my oldest sister took off on the bike we shared to visit her friend down the road.
Our first house didn’t have AC. Hubs installed an attic fan, which did a great job pulling air through the house, and a window unit in our bedroom. The kids were little and had a kiddie pool. I admit to sitting on a lawn chair with my feet in the water. No big trees for shade, though. We managed without a convenience we take for granted now.
Our second house (in Missouri) had central air. OMG, was that ever great! Summers in the Show-Me State are hot and sticky. Not as bad as farther south, of course, but miserable enough. I gave up having a vegetable garden, as I did in Michigan. Too hot to work in it. Easier to stay indoors in comfort.
In the 1990s, we lived in a Chicago suburb. Because nuclear power plants were being phased out and the demand for more power increasing, the electric company had what they called “rolling brown-outs” during the hottest days of summer. People got a special break on their electric bill if you let the company turn off your air periodically. Usually, I wasn’t aware that the AC was down until right before it turned on again—about an hour or so.
I never gave much thought to how much we depend on the convenience of air conditioning until my sister’s AC went out on the 4th. Even though she lives across the state, the temperature is a lot hotter over there than here by Lake Michigan. I, as well as several of her friends, invited her to stay with us/them until the unit could be fixed or replaced. She chose to stay in her home and sleep in her basement and run fans. Since it’s supposed to be in the 90s this week, she’s thrilled the new unit was installed yesterday.
We live in air-conditioned houses, drive our air-conditioned cars, and work in an air-conditioned environment. Well, many of us in North America do. Hubs used to work in a steel mill. No air conditioning there, except for offices. Blast furnaces, huge ladles carrying molten steel, red-hot slabs rolling out on conveyors. Hot doesn’t begin to describe the conditions. I went on a tour of the mill once, transported from building to building in an air-conditioned bus. When we came out of the electric furnace building, I was so relieved by the coolness of outdoors. And it was 105°.
We’re fortunate that we live near a big lake. The temperature is moderated by that huge expanse of water. Lake Michigan is cold. And I mean COLD. It’s a brave person that swims there before August. Wading up to your ankles is enough to cool you off.
Many city-dwellers live in beastly hot conditions. No AC for them. The heat bouncing off building with no cross ventilation. No wonder tempers flare. No relief from the unrelenting heat. No backyard grass to run barefoot on. No sprinklers to run through.
All that reminds me to be grateful for the convenience of air conditioning and not to take it for granted. Wherever you are, I hope you’re keeping cool.
About the Author
Diane Burton combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction and romance into writing romantic fiction.
Besides the science fiction romance Switched and Outer Rim series, she is the author of One Red Shoe, a romantic suspense, and the Alex O’Hara PI mystery series.
She is also a contributor to two anthologies: Portals, Volume 2 and How I Met My Husband.
Diane and her husband live in West Michigan. They have two children and five grandchildren.
You can read Diane’s “Family Life” column on the 3rd Wednesday each month here at Mustard Seed Sentinel.