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A Conditioned Position

the cost we all pay for a sweat-free summer

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by Mike Paulus illustrated by Ian Kloster

Don’t feel bad. We’ve all been there. You’re at a summer picnic, a grill out, a cotillion, what have you, just hanging out with friends, enjoying some amusing conversation. You’ve just bitten into your second hamburger (or third hot dog) when the discussion turns to how hot it’s been. And someone says, “We only used our air conditioner two, maybe three times last summer.”

And then someone else says, “That’s great. We didn’t turn ours on at all.” 

A third partygoer chimes in, “Well, I don’t even own an air conditioner.”

Your only acceptable response? “Oh yeah? Well, my family actually goes around our neighborhood under cover of darkness to steal other people’s AC units, dismantle them, and recycle the parts into playground equipment for third-world children. And found object art.”

Now, why would you utter such an outrageous, well-worded lie? Because among certain circles, there is pressure to not use your air conditioner. True, for many people, AC is just a fact of life. You just turn it on when it gets hot, as commonplace as flipping a light switch when it gets dark, or setting up the Dungeons & Dragons table when it’s Friday (and Saturday) night. 

I need to find some eco-snuggly ways of keeping cool. But everything I think of requires the Awesome Power of Electricity! And most electricity comes from burning stuff like coal and oil and wood and teddy bears and children’s happiness, and that’s just not good.

Yet, for a large chunk of the Chippewa Valley’s population (hotbed for college-educated, world-news-consuming community gardeners that it is) air conditioning is not cool. Get it?

Everyone knows air conditioning is pretty bad for the planet, and the people who don’t ignore this fact are usually quite proud of enduring Wisconsin’s heat/humidity sans conditioned air, frizzy-haired heads held high.

I myself have bragged about the minimal use of my home’s air conditioner. But to be honest, it’s my wife who’s saving the environment. She’s the strong one. If left to my own devices, I’d keep the thermostat hovering around the the 60-degree mark so I could  curl up under a cozy blanket. 

Mother Nature does not approve.

I need to find some eco-snuggly ways of keeping cool. But everything I think of requires the Awesome Power of Electricity! And most electricity comes from burning stuff like coal and oil and wood and teddy bears and children’s happiness, and that’s just not good. Do you have any idea how much greenhouse gas torched teddy bears produce every year? Imaginary metric tons!

I mean, I can’t strap blocks of ice to my forehead because, in order to make forehead-sized ice, you need power. I can’t install the trouser fans I invented (in my mind) because, as you might guess, they run on nuclear energy. And I can’t flood my house with three feet of cool water cuz my cats would drown.

So what option do I have left? The least sexy sounding verb in the English (and Scottish) language: acclimate. No gadgets. No switches to flip. No sigh-inducing blasts of arctic air. Just plain old getting used to it.

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