Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Keeping My Cool

Keeping My Cool

Okay, so a few weeks ago it was a meat-locker in my office. Now it’s an oven at home.

I live in an old 3 story wood house – the apartment on the middle floor. It’s Boston so we don’t have central air. Instead, twice a year I bribe some muscular acquaintance to lug my window unit A/C up and down the stairs between my apartment and the basement. The thing weighs a ton so I’m happy to outsource this task.

Unfortunately sometime since last summer another basement-user appears to have moved/dropped/sat on my window unit and while the damage appeared at first to be superficial, I have learned to my regret that it is in fact much graver than originally thought. The air conditioner works. Just not very well.

We’re in the middle of our annual brief heat wave so it was about 85 degrees in my apartment when I got home at 6.30. I immediately turned on the A/C and within an hour it had cooled the room to a startling 84 degrees. Sigh.

Time to bring out the time-honored cooling methods of the A/C deprived. I learned some of these methods from my grandmother – also a window unit user, but only on the absolute HOTTEST days of the Texas summer. I mean, let’s not get over-indulgent, okay?

First and most effective – put your pajamas in the freezer. I’m telling you, it’s totally worth it. Best 30 seconds of my evening, putting on my frozen nightie before heading off to sweat sleeplessly sleep.*

- Spritz. Put your spritzer of water in the fridge during the day and carry that baby around all evening, spritzing when necessary. Your couch and clothes will get damp, and you may end up looking like a sweaty extra in a movie set in the South in the ‘30s, but you’ll feel MUCH better.

- Create a cave. Close all windows and shades, blocking light and sun-baked air as much as possible. It’s still cooler inside than out, so try to contain the coolness as much as possible. I sometimes modify this approach by cracking a window in the far back of the house, working on the theory that it makes it less stuffy and it might act as a lure, drawing the cooler air through the rest of the house. I’m very scientific about this.

- Fans. Fans everywhere, especially right in front of the A/C to help the cool air move.

- Ice. Ice cubes in the cats’ water bowls (tricks them into drinking water because they play with them for a while, helping to avoid dehydration) and bowls of ice in front of the fans.

- Shower. When all else fails, take a cold shower. Go to bed without drying off. Letting the water evaporate off your skin rather than toweling off gives you an extra minute of coolness. A whole minute.

- Conserve, conserve, conserve. Your own energy. Don’t move too much. Don’t gesture wildly. Don’t shout. Think ‘I am a slug. I am a very cool slug.’ Don’t let the cats get their ridiculously warm fur anywhere near you. If you can hypnotize yourself into a cool catatonic state you should do so. It’s only temporary.

- And last, do NOT cook. At all. Gnaw on ice and popsicles and if you absolutely must heat something, use the microwave.

* The frozen-jammies approach is one method I did NOT learn from my grandmother. I enjoy imagining her giggle at the very idea though.

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