Summer has finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest, and that has me looking forward to autumn. Personally, I wish we could just skip over summer altogether and get back to cool, grey, drizzly days with occasional “sunbreaks,” because I hate hot weather, and it doesn’t like me much, either.
I was always the kid with the flushed and sweaty face just minutes after starting to play outside in the summertime, as if my mother had let me go out to play with a high fever. We didn’t have air conditioning, and at that time in Southern Ohio we didn’t really need it most of the time. I managed during the summers of my early adulthood in South Carolina, learning to do what the locals did, running errands early and shopping for groceries after dark in hot weather. Then, on moving to Florida, I became totally addicted to air conditioning for 25 years. I managed there 9 months of the year by living in a home with central air, having an air-conditioned car, shopping in the freezing stores and malls which were typical in Florida. The other 3 months I reveled in the clear, cool, breezy, glorious weather I lived for the rest of the year.
Then, my last year in Florida, the air conditioning in my home finally failed. Oddly, when the house was built the air conditioning lines were run UNDER the cement slab. There was a leak somewhere under that slab and there was no getting to it; a whole new system would have to be installed, to the tune of many thousands of dollars. I didn’t have that kind of money lying around, or even access to that amount, so we gritted our teeth and realized we were going to face months of temperatures over 90 degrees with humidities to match, inside the house.
Window air conditioners were not allowed in our neighborhood, so I bought 3 portable units, which were truly less than adequate. Most days, in my home office in the corner of the family room, the average was 92-93 degrees, with a portable AC unit next to my desk. I worked wearing wetted-down t-shirts and shorts with a wet towel on my head. This went on for six months, May through October; it wasn’t pretty. Our only relief came from the afternoon thunderstorms, when we took our chances with the lightning so we could stand outside in the rain. Our only hope was that we knew we were moving to Oregon the next spring; Portland was like a beacon of cool light at the end of a very hot tunnel.
When we arrived in Portland in early May of 2010, it was still cool and damp, even chilly, and stayed that way for weeks. I loved being able to wear turtleneck sweaters in June, the sweaters I wore for 3 days out of the year in Florida. Locals apologized for the late appearance of summer that year, to which I said, “Are you kidding?” Then they would ask why in the world I wanted to leave Florida, to which I said, “Are you kidding?” People here would rhapsodize about how much they’d enjoyed Walt Disney World when vacationing there and how much they’d like to live in Florida. I just chuckled and shook my head.
Last summer here in the PNW was also short; our first 90-degree day didn’t occur until late August, which thrilled me to no end. We don’t have AC in our townhouse; we didn’t see the sense in getting a unit for the handful of days when it might be needed. We realize there are occasionally days of 100-degree temps, but we haven’t had to deal with that yet. We’re considering buying a swamp cooler (also known as an evaporative cooler) to take the edge off any really, really hot days.
Today is forecast to be a 90-degree day, after a few days in the mid to upper 80s. The construction work we endured on our building last month and the month before seems to be helping; the upstairs bedrooms don’t get nearly as hot on sunny days, and the new door and window downstairs seem to seal out the heat better as well. We let in as much cool air as possible early and then close up tight until late evening, which will get us through. But I still long for autumn…
In writing about this today I am acutely aware of the misery endured by millions of Americans this past week, with days and days of 100+ degrees temps and power outages that have been keeping air conditioners off around the country. There is some relief coming, I see, but that misery will take awhile to be erased, and the memory of those who perished in the excessive heat will never be erased. I hesitated to tackle this subject because I’m not likely to face that kind of weather extreme anymore, and a 90-degree day without AC (and low humidity) is nothing like what so many have been going through. So that may make me sound even more like a wimp. But I think, especially in light of that last 6-month stretch in Florida, I’ve earned my wimp status. So be it. Stay cool, all!