My goodness I have ignored this blog for a long time! I could say a lot about that and why, and I probably will at some point; however, just accept my apology and lets move on, shall we?
Yesterday on Facebook, I threatened to blog about the current heatwave sweeping much of the nation, especially the midwest (where I am) and the east coast. I don't want to get into the Climate Change "debate" as, in my mind, there is no debate. The climate is changing, changing rapidly and irrevocably, and humans are playing a huge role in that, regardless of whether or not we are also in a "normal" cycle. All of us in developed, consumer based societies are implicated, even if we are not as much to blame as corporations and governments (however, we do elect our government in the USA and we also vote with our dollars when it comes to corporations). In short, we--especially here in the USA--have become complacent, comforting ourselves with thoughts of cloth grocery bags, more fuel efficient cars, and EnergyStar labels on our appliances. Very few of us are truly consuming less. In fact, most of us use MORE energy when we procure something that uses LESS.
But, that's not what I want to contemplate today. Today, I want to contemplate the heat.
There's no denying, it has been hot, hot, hot this summer. In fact, we have had record breaking temperatures since March, right on the heels of a warm winter.
I don't want to hide the fact that I don't mind the heat since I have completed treatment. This might be one of the only true "silver linings" to come out of my cancer experience. As I wrapped up treatment (which consisted of 6 rounds of chemo, followed by a double mastectomy, followed by 4 more rounds of chemo, followed by 6 weeks of radiation, I craved radiant heat. It's not that I was constantly cold, although the cold was much more chilling. It's that I craved the radiant heat. At one point, after my second batch of chemo and before radiation, I was in a motel and found myself dragging the easy chair from the room into the bathroom to sit under the heat lamp just to feel the heat radiating down on my. Once the weather warmed up, I had to be out in the sun and heat, even though it meant wearing long sleeves and a hat. I'd sit there, with big drops of sweat dripping down my face, loving ever second of it.
I also don't mind sweating, and I used to hate it. I don't mind exercising when it is hot and getting all sweaty. In fact, I rather like it.
This is all a huge change for me. I used to despise being hot and sweaty. When asked, I'd say I'd rather be cold than hot. When cold, I can do things to get warmer. However, when hot...well...there's only so many items of clothing that can be removed, for instance. I remember some mighty miserable times when we didn't have central AC. Come to think of it, I've not had AC more years of my life than I have had AC. There were summers early in our marriage that my husband and I would go out to dinner just to experience AC. I believe it was the summer of '88 when we practically lived at one particular pizza place here in town because their AC was minimal, which made going home less uncomfortable (plus they served the best variety of beers here in town). There were summers past when the boys and I would go to movies we didn't want to see just to spend 2.5 hours in AC. There have been times past when all or part of the family has spent the night at the homes of friends who had AC.
I'm not going to ever deny that AC has made the hot times much more pleasant. Right now, it's 104F outside while I'm lounging comfortably on the couch with a a heat generating laptop, watching a Harry Potter marathon on tv with the Feral Third and one of his friends. We are quite comfortable. We've been sleeping well. Our appetites have not been affected by the heat. We are comfortable.
And trust me, when I just had to run an errand out of the house, the heat was oppressive. Oh, by the time I was finished and back home, I was finding the heat less oppressive and finding it somewhat appealing. I contemplated sitting on the patio and writing this.
I've been running late at night. Most sane people run or exercise early in the day when the heat hits dangerous levels; however, as appealing as that sounds to me in the evenings, I'm no morning person. Every morning, my alarm goes off--the alarm I set with the idea of beginning a morning exercise routine this summer--and ever morning I turn it off. I want to be a morning person, but clearly I am not.
So I've been going out at night, after dark, later some nights than others. That's when I started thinking about the heat. I know I've commented on this before, perhaps in other fora, but AC has made us comfortable at a cost.
For starters, if we accept the premise that Global Climate Change is happening and that massive weather events will continue to happen, and happen with increasing frequency, in the future, one loss we, as a society, have experienced is a loss of knowledge. Just a few days ago, a "freak" storm left thou sands in my area without electricity. A week or so before that, hundreds of thousands were left without electricity for days on end. I'd hazard that most millennials don't know how to amuse themselves without electricity, but even fewer know how to "beat the heat" without AC. My mother's generation did. Of course, they'd tell us that it was easier with electricity, especially fans, and, truthfully, there is only so much that can be done to alleviate the discomfort of extreme heat without electricity, but there are some tricks. Many of those tricks won't work in most modern houses. Most contemporary houses, built since the 1950s and later, simply do not cool easily. They are designed for AC. They don't have windows that open from the bottom and the top (although in more houses that is becoming common and with replacement windows many are getting this feature), houses no longer have shading built in via overhanging eaves, many neighborhoods no longer have shade trees, and many, many houses are not set up for cross ventilation. Those ugly window awnings that I always hated on houses served a vital purpose.
A second loss is the HUGE loss of community because of AC. When we didn't have AC, and it got really hot, we'd spend evenings outside where it was cool. That's why older houses have porches...outdoor living spaces. When I was quite young, we lived in a big, older house in Lakewood, Ohio. It had a big front porch and a large back screened in porch. The house at one time had had two upstairs porches as well (they still existed, but for safety reasons the doors had been nailed shut). There were nights we all slept out on the screened in porch. There were afternoons of board games, crafts, and other activities which didn't require much movement during the dog days of summer.
The other day, some college students in our neighborhood who live in a house w/o AC were sitting in a baby pool, on their porch. Had they had AC, there is a good chance that the 4 or 5 of them would not have spent that time socializing together. And that's what I notice when I go out running at night. All the porches are empty. Everyone is in their homes. Except for those few houses without AC...those people are in their yards and sitting on their porches.
During the day, kids aren't out playing. The streets are devoid of pedestrians (moreso than usual). We live in fear of the heat. It's a true danger for those in ill health and those who don't respect it, but healthy children can go out and play when it's 100F, especially now when we have a plethora of hydration bottles and other systems to choose from. I'm not saying that they should be playing full blown games of soccer in the middle of the day, but I also have faith that they will self regulate, seek out shade, play quiet games. Perhaps self-regulation is another loss. People keep their kids indoors when it's too cold and when it's too hot.
The other evening, as the Feral Third and I were leaving the city pool, I noticed that the park was empty. At 7 pm, no one was playing basketball, no one was on the roller hockey rink, the playground was deserted. The skate park had kids in it, but those kids are there rain or shine, snow or sleet. The pool was unexpectedly uncrowded as well. Of course, why leave your house?
Of course, it's no secret that the more time one spends in AC, the more uncomfortable the heat is. I noticed that as soon as we turned our AC on the other day. Prior to that, we all ate two meals a day out on our shaded patio. If I asked the boys to go out there now for supper, they'd revolt.
By no means am I dissing AC. I'm very thankful we have it. I'm appreciative of it. I'm thankful we have window units for the upstairs bedrooms (they heating/cooling duct work was never installed up there). I'm also, despite its many flaws, appreciative of the age of our house and that it's in an older neighborhood with tall, mature trees. The cross ventilation works really well, especially with a fans to help. At the same time, I look forward to the temps dropping to the mid to upper 80s this week so that I can turn the AC off and reconnect with the world.
And, truthfully, I miss the days when we were living in an house without central AC and with a huge, older window unit that cooled precisely 2 rooms in the downstairs but was so expensive to run that we were loathe to run it for many hours of the day. Mid-day would find the boys either on the porch with cold drinks, reading, or we'd spread out blankets in the shade of the trees out back and play games, read, and sometimes even nap. As a family, we'd hang out around the picnic table until after dark. These days, two of the boys are too old to want to engage in those activities, that's undeniable. After all, one no longer lives at home (although he does come here to suck up our cable access, he has his own AC). But the Feral Third would be more inclined to get off the couch, turn off the video games, and get outside if inside weren't so comfortable. He'd be more inclined to ride his bike across town to the neighborhoods where his friends live if the inside weren't so comfortable. He'd not be so inclined to waste the day away sleeping if doing so weren't so comfortable.
There is much to be said about AC and the heat. When I go to bed tonight, I'll be very grateful for it. As I sit here, watching tv and typing, I'm thankful. But I'm also aware that it has changed the face of society and not all in good ways. And I fear that in the very near future, some of us will (again) be shocked when we are forced to live without it.