In our office building, the air conditioning has become so cold that several people have taken to turning on space heaters in their offices, pitting AC versus heater in an exhibition of inefficiency so profound that it makes me feel better about running an underground humidifier vs. dehumidifier fighting ring in my garage. Still, the scene is so wasteful that I’m pretty sure every time one of those space heaters is turned on, somewhere, a hippie loses a bongo.
I’ve also noticed a trend in which many stores are cranking up the AC with both front doors propped open, the idea being to pull in customers with the enticement of cold air, causing an effect similar to the one that happens to cartoon characters when they float on the scent of an apple pie cooling on a window sill. Perhaps customers should start boycotting stores that flagrantly waste energy like that, unless the store has something really cool on sale, which is usually when my personal boycotts break down. So far, the only store I’ve been able to successfully boycott is Talbot’s, except when I have to buy presents for my mom. In any event, it seems like cartoon characters could easily improve their apple pie retention ratios by just cooling their pies on their kitchen counters instead.
My wife Kara and I used to wage seasonal battles over the thermostat settings in our house, but since we moved into a place that came with central air last year, we can now hone our debate skills year-round. Kara likes to keep the AC at a level that would allow you to preserve an ice sculpture long enough to show it to your eventual children’s prom dates. In the winter, though, she prefers the house to double as a pizza oven.
We maintain a delicate peace through a sunshine policy; neither of us is allowed to change the temperature without announcing it to the other person. We adhere to this policy because we both know that noncompliance would touch off an escalation unlikely to end without tazers becoming somehow involved.
“It’s funny how our internal thermostats are different,” she said to me a couple of days ago, as I sat shivering under a down comforter, tucking my hands under my armpits and reciting state capitals to fight off the early stages of hypothermia. It just seems like maybe, in July, a person should occasionally be hot. When I was a kid, we just stayed in bed and sweated from June until September, spending our days waiting for the oscillating fan to come back our way. That was back when people appreciated needless suffering. These days, with people all comfortable inside their homes, offices and cars, the only chance we get to commune with nature happens in parking lots, which we don’t even appreciate because we’re too busy squeezing into the tiny spot beside the jerk who tried to take two spaces.
I have a certain level of eco-guilt that, coupled with my cheapness, always leads me to crank the temperature closer to whatever it happens to be outside. This guilt doesn’t extend to the car, though. I recently read an article that explained how rolling down the windows doesn’t necessarily increase fuel efficiency over running the AC, due to the increased drag of opening up your car. At low speeds, rolling the windows down is much better, but depending on the type of car you drive, the break-even point can be between 45 mph and 75 mph, above which it’s more efficient to run the AC. Personally, this is all moot, because the point at which hair you’ve placed carefully over your bald spots begins to dislodge when the windows are rolled down occurs at approximately 7 mph, eliminating this option entirely for any driving not taking place on the Jersey Turnpike.
You can give Mike Todd the artificially cooled shoulder at email@example.com.