Summertime, and the living is sweaty

Yes, that's a lovely air conditioner, but I called about my refrigerator. (courtesy of

Stop smiling at me and fix that damn thing, freakboy, or I'll make you decode my carpet. (courtesy of

The date on my calendar is July 23, at least it was when I started this post. School-age kids crowd neighborhood stores and street corners during the day. Michael Bay has arranged some explosions to resemble a movie and released it into theaters. All evidence suggests that summer is in full swing in my fair city. But I just ventured outside to find 65-degree temperatures and rain. I much prefer coolness and precipitation to heat and humidity, so consider this an observation, not a complaint. There’s nothing to see here, weather gods. Go back to your cloud castles, or wherever it is you plot all those natural disasters. I’ll sit down here on earth enjoying the unseasonable weather and saving money on air conditioning.

Me and New York City summer don’t get along so well. We never really had a chance. I arrived here late one night, ten years ago, with my life in a U-Haul. One of that summer’s heatwaves was gripping the city. The temperature had dipped into the high 90s. The air was still. And the humidity was thick. I carried every last thing I owned – including a bed and boxes of CDs – up two flights of stairs to my new apartment. I was drenched after two trips, and managed to sweat through my leather belt within an hour.

I didn’t have a job at the time – story of my life – so I spent the next week sending out resumes in an un-air-conditioned apartment and trying not to drip on them. Very few residential buildings in New York have central air – vestiges of tenement housing and/or cheap builders. Everyone here uses window units. But I didn’t have one, or the money for one. So I sweated, and sweated some more. Relief came from afternoons at the library and evenings at the second-run movie theater, where cool air was free or really cheap. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I charged an air conditioner to my credit card and lugged it home on the subway with a luggage cart. A paycheck would be along eventually. Though when it did arrive I wouldn’t be so desperate for heat relief anymore.

Not only is summer my least favorite season, it’s my least favorite season to be unemployed. I spend many of my days plugging away at my (ok, wifey’s) computer in an apartment with poor airflow. I crank up the ceiling fan and position the Vornado in the window for maximum breeziness. The arrangement keeps me comfortable until about mid-afternoon, when the sun is shining directly on my west-facing windows and the temperature inside has risen far above whatever it is outside. When I feel the sweat on my forehead, when I stick to the throw pillow that cushions my rear end on the dining room chair I’ve worn out, I crank up the AC. I could probably hold out longer, but there’s no need to be a hero. Our finances aren’t that bad.

I regulate the air conditioning because wifey and I are paying for it and I don’t have a job. Our electric bill for a one-bedroom apartment, last summer, when I was employed, was over $200/month. Neither of us were here all day, and the window units were off, barring a heatwave. The cats just slept anyway, maybe barfed a couple times and meowed at the wall – all less-than-taxing tasks. They got by just fine in the heat. Our last electric bill was well under $200, and I was home a good deal of the time. We have the weather to thank for that.

But I still miss central air, a nice ancillary benefit of every one of my post-college jobs. Only the summer after my sophomore year of college, when I worked ground crew on a golf course, did I have to endure the heat. And not only was central air at work free, I got paid to enjoy it. I miss having to keep a sweatshirt in my drawer because building systems still can’t tell the difference between 70 and 50 degrees on an entire floor. Yet some cars can regulate temperatures for driver and passenger… go figure. I miss looking out the window into heat that’s almost visible from an air-conditioned fortress of an office building. I miss being cool all day everyday, and not having to think about it. Unemployment has its benefits, and work has its drawbacks. But employment easily wins the AC battle.

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