When you get older one advantage you have over the younger generation is knowing what it’s like to live without air-conditioning. During the last heat wave I counted the ways we beat the heat when we were young.
- We slept out on the back lawn on a bed sheet until flies or mosquitoes drove us in. If we were lucky enough to have a screened-in porch with a fan blowing on us we’d go there in the first place. (That was in Minnesota for me.)
- Open windows helped in California desert’s dry air if you kept them wide open at night and closed them in the early morning. In my grandmother’s Riverside adobe house this worked very well.
- On long car trips we made it a point to stop at every A&W root beer stand we came to. Air-conditioning in cars was new and expensive. Going through the desert we found night driving helped but the Milky Way’s canopy of stars made it hard to keep eyes on the road. How can you use the word “awesome” in any lesser way?
- When we lived in a Quonset Hut on the Mojave Desert an air cooler worked very well. If you don’t know what an air cooler is, it’s a window box lined with fibrous material. When water drips through it and a large fan blows air inside it works wonders.
- Of course, a hand held paper fan was a boon if you were in a captive audience like a lecture hall or sitting in a church pew. It helped keep you awake too.
- Before refrigeration and ice cubes we’d use an ice pick to shave off shards from a block of ice in the ice box to fill tall glasses of lemonade or iced tea. If you’ve never heard the music from a tray of these such as my auntie brought in from the kitchen you’ll never know what you’ve missed.
I’ll trade modern air-conditioning any day for those old ways, but today there’s no need. It’s summertime and temps are in the mid seventies here. Doors are open. Windows too. Soft breezes waft in with the chatter and songs of wild birds. Yes, I do hear the faint purring of air conditioners somewhere. I wonder why?