Air Conditioning Is Like Driving; It Is Convenient and Our Society Is Built Around It.

sleeping in park

Ephemeral New York/Public Domain

Many are outraged by our recent articles about air conditioning, saying that people are entitled to be comfortable and we are sanctimonious. I've been getting it for years, and Brian got it in spades this morning, with his post titled "Air Conditioning is for Entitled Assholes" before it was edited, but also noting that "Unfortunately, we are all entitled Assholes."

We are perfectly aware of what a blessing air conditioning can be. I have put one in my daughter's bedroom in the attic of our house because it would be uninhabitable otherwise. I have been in a Brooklyn apartment where the family just moved from Georgia and they couldn't live in it without AC. You only have to read the great playwright Arthur Miller in a 1998 article in the New Yorker to understand what it was like before AC.

Even through the nights, the pall of heat never broke. With a couple of other kids, I would go across 110th to the Park and walk among the hundreds of people, singles and families, who slept on the grass, next to their big alarm clocks, which set up a mild cacophony of the seconds passing, one clock’s ticks syncopating with another’s. Babies cried in the darkness, men’s deep voices murmured, and a woman let out an occasional high laugh beside the lake.

People sweated and smelled, and didn't know how to dress for the heat then either.

A South African gentleman once told me that New York in August was hotter than any place he knew in Africa, yet people here dressed for a northern city. He had wanted to wear shorts but feared that he would be arrested for indecent exposure.

Read the whole thing in the New Yorker.

Licking Ice

© Ephemeral New York

Fortunately we have Republicans on the side of moderation. Last year, after a program was announced to provide air conditioners to poor people with medical issues, one Conservative wrote:

It’s easy to forget that air-conditioning is a luxury. Heartless people factually point out that the devices are one of numerous goodies commonly available to people who live under the poverty line in this nation. European kings in 1900 would have gladly given it all away to be poor in America today.

In the end, it is all about moderation; about designing our homes better so they don't need as much air conditioning, if any. It's about reinforcing the cultural aspects of where we live instead of hiding inside. It's about having a discussion, not a culture war.