Baby, It's Cold Inside

2 min
at 11:43 PM

Summer is when it sizzles but Richard Swerdlow is positively shivering.

It's been a hot summer. Last month, Paris sizzled under heat of almost 108 degrees, with similar temperatures recorded throughout Europe. And in this country, records melted in July. Washington, DC had a peak heat index of 112, and New York, 111. Even chilly San Francisco was feeling the heat with a high of 91, setting a record on June 9.

And you know what? I'm freezing.

The irony of summer - roasting outdoors and freezing indoors. Sure, it may feel like a sauna on your way to the movie theater, but better bring along a sweater, because with air conditioning blasting in there, it’s positively arctic.

No matter how hot the summer afternoon, the minute you step into restaurants, shopping malls, museums, hotel lobbies, you're shivering in your shorts. I've been in air-conditioned offices in August that feel like the frozen food aisle at the supermarket. Every office worker knows what I mean - AC so icily effective, some workers keep winter outerwear stashed in their cubicle. I've seen people bring portable heaters to plug in under their desks. It may be 100 degrees outside, but baby, it’s cold inside.

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I'm not complaining. I appreciate the beat-the-heat benefit this remarkable technology provides, and I see the first-world privilege of whining about air conditioning, which has only existed for about 100 years. And for some people, excessive heat is dangerous, with many deaths reported during recent heat waves.

However, with climate change seeming increasingly urgent, these wasteful energy-hogging Goldilocks summers - outside too hot, inside too cold - are particularly incongruous. The U.S. uses more air conditioning than all other nations combined. Maybe it's time to turn up the thermostat and spend summer the way people did before AC was invented: fans, window shades, cool lemonade, cold showers, and - yes, they really did this - keeping your underwear in the icebox.

With a Perspective, I'm Richard Swerdlow.

Richard Swerdlow keeps cool teaching for the San Francisco Unified School District.

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