This week, I'd like to direct your attention to a very useful invention that is woefully misused. As a lifelong resident of latitudes where the temperature (in degrees Fahrenheit) and the humidity (in percent) routinely exceed 95, I wholeheartedly nominated the air conditioner as the most useful invention of the twentieth century. My parents grew up in Mississippi without the benefit of air conditioning. I get breathless just thinking about that.
Many of my ancestors left Scotland around 1800 and hurried to the American Deep South just as fast as their feet would take them. Now, I've been to Scotland. I saw native Scots wearing full-length coats in late June, and the temperature was somewhat akin to Mississippi in February. In colloquial terms, Scotland tends to be "a bit airish." How on earth did my great-great-great-great-greatgrandparents survive that transition? They were farmers. How did they learn to raise crops in such an alien climate? But I was talking about air conditioning, wasn't I?
I was part of the first generation to grow up when air conditioning was nearly ubiquitous. I say nearly because, in a poor state, the schools receive luxuries last. When I graduated in 1979, we were still leaving our comfortable homes every August and boarding school buses that felt like ovens which took us to schoolrooms that could have passed for furnaces. I remember what that was like, and I feel that one of the best things about being an adult is being in control of the thermostat.
And now I reach the part where air conditioning, this invention that I'm so fond of, is most woefully misused. Why, I want to know, is it necessary for public places to be chilled to meat-locker temperatures? I take a sweater with me wherever I go, because every restaurant and store I enter raises goose bumps all over my body. I was once stranded in the Orlando airport for hours with nothing to do but watch my fingernails turn blue. Now, you know that in Orlando it had to be pushing a hundred degrees Fahrenheit outside. What must it cost to cool that much space to such a frigid temperature?
It seems that most blogs take a political turn at some time or other, so here's my moment. Think of the energy that would be saved if thermostats in public places nationwide were bumped up by just a single degree. Maybe we could achieve independence from Middle East oil. Maybe we could avoid drilling off the Florida coastline or in the Alaskan wilderness. So let's create a groundswell led by readers of The Lady Killers. If you're in charge of your workplace thermostat, try upping it by one degree. If you're not in charge, but have a subversive streak, sneak the setting up anyway. (Just don't get caught.) If, after a week, nobody's complained that they're too warm, sneak it up another degree.
Then we can all feel warm and snuggly about the energy we just saved. Or maybe just warm...