Monday, August 10, 2009

Excellent advice from my mother

So I guess it's going to summer now, huh? Muggy and stifling, with nightly thunderstorms that knock the power out just long enough so that you have to reset 12 clocks or face perpetual blinking midnight everywhere you turn.

Are you hot yet? We turned the air conditioner on for the first time since mid-June yesterday. With a click and whirr it softly brought itself to life and just like that soothing little puffs out cool air started billowing around our overheated rooms.

I came to air conditioning fairly late, with my parents installing the central air unit when I was halfway through high school, so most of my memories of summer interiors involve closely drawn shades and the ritual opening and shutting of windows, ceiling fans, and popsicles. So I am always vaguely in awe that I can command the cold with some fairly minor pressing of buttons on my own thermostat.

Our air conditioner is new, and it's the first 'climatised air' I've lived with since I left home for university. And because of my strong preference for loads of natural light and a monastic noise level, I have tended, over the decade of my single, apartment-dwelling life, to choose south-facing apartments near the tops of buildings. This has meant that my summers have always been very, very warm.

In Edmonton, near the end of my PhD, we suffered a real scorcher of a summer and my apartment at the time was a glorified bachelor with both eastern and southern exposure, at the very top of a red brick building with flat tar roof. Basically, if you imagine my apartment as a cube (four walls and a floor and a roof) three of the six sides were exposed to 15 hours of unremitting sun. It was like living in a pizza oven. My thermostat was one of those vertical-slider types to set the heat level, but a circular mechanism to mark the temparature on that vertical axis, and it got so hot in the apartment that the temperature needle spun right off the top of the scale and disappeared back into the mechanism.

I took a polaroid, which scorched in the heat, and distorted beyond recognition.

I was dying from the heat, listless and doing not much besides drink fizzy water with a splash of lime. I called my mom. She cut my rambling complaints short and gave me the best, craziest piece of advice that I'm now going to share with you.

"Put your bathing suit on and have a shower," she told me.

"Um, I'm quite comfortable showering naked, actually."

"No, Mimi, the point is to damp-dry yourself when you come out, and keep the bathing suit on."


"Think: have you ever in your life been too hot while wearing a wet bathing suit?"

No, actually, no I haven't. And I bet you haven't either. Take a moment. Cast back in your mind. Getting anything? Too hot in a bathing suit, yes, but in a wet bathing suit? No.

So I did it. You can't really sit on the upholstered furniture, but you can wash dishes, make the bed, tidy up, run the vacuum, sit at the kitchen table and read the newspaper, dye your hair. And you won't be too hot.

Moms. Sometimes, their advice is excellent, if unorthodox.


Jessica said...

Couldn't agree more. Sometimes when I dispense advice I get odd looks, or rolled eyes...but I always wait for the call, later, where they say, "OMG, that sounded so crazy to me then, but I tried it and..."!

Patti said...

Hmm, hadn't tried the bathing suit part, but I've lived at the top of 2 old houses without a/c and with old windows that only open a crack here and there....

I learned to take a lukewarm shower before bed. Not too hot, of course. But not too cold either - it makes your body try to warm up. But like Goldilocks - "just right"!


Jenifer said...

We have had the air on and off all summer, but in a townhouse you don't get all those breezes.

Mom's advice sounds pretty clever to me.

By the way I love air conditioning. I cannot function very well when I am overheated.

alejna said...

Great advice! I've never heard that suggestion before. I may well try it one of these days.

NotSoSage said...

And when you live in an apartment with big windows, it gives your neighbours something to be distracted by, too! ;)

Beck said...

When we had The Girl, we lived in an apartment JUST LIKE THAT. I think we spent the first two summers of her life in our underpants.... if only we'd known your mom's swimsuit trick, eh?

Kyla said...

With summers that reach 115-120, there is no surviving without AC. I've never lived in a house without it and just thinking of doing do makes me want to diiiiie.

Also, I hate you a teeny bit for only having to turn on your AC now. There is never a period of time we don't have to use the AC. Even in winter, we frequently have to switch between heat and AC, because it never stays cool for long.