Three days into a record-breaking heatwave, I’ve finally broken down and turned on the little AC unit that sits in a corner of our living room.
The last straw broke this morning at 7am after I came downstairs following a fitful night of sleep. The thermostat read 28 degrees Celsius (82.4 Fahrenheit) on our main living floor, meaning that it was at least another few degrees warmer upstairs. No surprise that my sleep had been patchy at best.
And now the AC unit chugs away like the little engine that wants to and I wait for some relief. There’s a part of me that wonders if the very act of turning it on is an exercise in futility — after a full hour of the AC chugging away, the reading on the thermostat has only come down by half a degree. Maybe I’m just impatient.
It feels frivolous to have turned it on — Joe’s out of town and it seems wasteful to spend so much energy to try to cool the house down just for me.
But I’m not sure I can do another day of warding off headaches with cold water and Gatorade alone.
Growing up, AC was a luxury mostly enjoyed at grandma and grandpa’s house.
The pre-war homes of my early years weren’t built for central air and we simply suffered through the heat as best we could with fans, shades drawn, and kiddie pools in the back yard. Maybe it was the stucco that kept the houses from warming up too much or maybe it simply didn’t used to get as warm, but I only remember a few truly miserable days each summer.
Later on, as my mom, brother and I lived in parsonages, we either didn’t have AC or diligent stewardship of dwindling church funds meant that we soldiered through the dog days of summer without turning it on. Or, if we did have AC to turn on, we’d use it sparingly lest the electricity bill come in too high and throw off the budget. It never occurred to me that the same people who sat on councils and complained about costs went home to their own cooled homes.
I suppose then there’s good reason that my reluctance to turn on the AC seems tied to a sense of dutiful stewardship. Our utility bills are wrapped into our housing package, and I’m perhaps too keenly aware that it’s ultimately the American people who will foot the bill for the extra electricity it takes to run it.
I wonder where the line is between being a good steward and being an unappointed martyr?
The climate crisis has been giving me pause too — there’s no denying that this heat wave is the result of global warming. And I realized as I sat on an overheated metro yesterday that perhaps I hadn’t been doing my very best to make a positive impact.
I was once a girl who went to camp at an environmental learning center every summer. I deeply and passionately gave a damn about things like recycling and composting and turning off lights.
I’m afraid I’ve gotten complacent in adulthood.
Sure, I recycle and turn off lights — I’m not an environmental asshole. But I’ve realized those are things that a 9 year old could do. And I, as a capable and educated adult, can and should be doing more.
I truly fear for our planet if we don’t all pay attention as the scientists say we’re at a critical point. And I know it’s on me to be part of the solution.
There it goes again… my sense of dutiful stewardship…
Even as I write this, the living room feels a bit cooler.
I just hope it doesn’t get too comfortable.