“These are the good old days.” —Oscar Elliott (1947-2016) humorist, philosopher, counselor, confidant, and my lifelong friend.
Being a member of the geezer generation has its perks. My favorite is giving younger generations a hard time about how easy they have it and how much tougher it was in the “good old days” when I growing up. After last week however, I may have to update the good old days.
Second only to “when I was your age, I walked to school, rain or shine, even in the snow, uphill—both ways” are the stories of surviving the dog days of summer before the luxury of air conditioning became common place. Greek and Roman astrology associated the hottest, most uncomfortable part of summer with heat, drought, thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, bad luck and mad dogs, attributing them to the rising of the star system, Sirius.
I’m not sure about the other maladies maligned by the ancients, but with the recent wave of serious heat, even the canines are howling about the good old dog days of summer.
It was the rising serious heat that also warmed up discussions with a younger friend last week when she said, “You know, it’s just hard to imagine not having air conditioning. Wow, that must have been a long time ago. How did people survive?”
“We didn’t know any difference,” I offered, politely ignoring her “long tome ago” reference. “I was entering sixth grade before the first air conditioner was installed at the Aldridge household, and that was just for one room. Using a discount coupon from the chamber of commerce ‘Welcome Wagon’ when we moved to Mount Pleasant, Dad bought a small window unit at Western Auto to cool the living room. In the rest of the house, it was still open windows and fans.”
Continuing with cars, I said, “My father bought his first car with air conditioning when I was in college. Summer trips as a kid, driving long distances with only the benefit of that old 4/60 air conditioning system, four windows down at 60 miles per hour, was our climate control.”
Wrapping up with how I graduated from a high school that lacked air conditioning in many classrooms, I was prepared to segue into why all of the serious heat stories were so relevant right now. “Open windows and ceiling fans provided cooling as well as olfactory experiences from the outdoors like the custodian raking and burning leaves in the Fall. The band hall was in a separate building with a single window unit, and that was the only class.”
“So, I guess this heat doesn’t bother you then,” my young friend asked?
“It didn’t until the A/C at my house went down Labor Day weekend,” I said.
“How long was it down,” she gasped in disbelief.
“Going on a week,” I replied triggering another gasp.
“That’s really bad.”
“No, that’s good because I recently bought a home warranty and it paid for repairs on the first visit.”
“No, that was bad. The first trip didn’t fix it and the compressor quit working, but it turned out good because they replaced the compressor.”
“Well, that is good.”
“No, that was bad. The new compressor was defective—ran a week and died.”
“Oh, that’s bad.”
“No, that turned out good because they’re replacing it.”
“Well, that’s good.”
“No, that’s bad because it hasn’t come in yet and I’ve been without air for a week.”
“Now, that really is bad.”
“You’re absolutely right. That really is bad,” I agreed with her. “It’s reminded me that as much as I reminisce about the good old days—these air-conditioned days really are the good old days.”
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