Last night when I got into my car at 11:07 p.m. after grocery shopping, the temperature was 97 degrees. I literally exhaled a gasp.
In North Central Texas, we’re over 25 days and counting of triple-digit temperatures. Everything outside is crispy and starting to turn brown. The whole outside looks like it could catch fire any minute. And as those of you who have been receiving my newsletter know, we had a range fire near our home a few years ago.
My husband is struggling to save the plants with targeted watering three times a day, but we aren’t even making an effort on the grass. With no end to the heat in sight, we fear it’s a battle we couldn’t win. Not even considering the waste of water, I can’t imagine what it would do to our water bill. What’s happening with the electric bill is bad enough.
I’m starting to feel like I live in Arizona. Or southern Nevada. There, many homeowners don’t even have grass. They have gravel and stone in their yards instead. That’s starting to look pretty good to me.
But I digress. This post really isn’t about the weather. It’s about air conditioning, which all of us take for granted nowadays.
When I was growing up in West Texas, we had no “refrigerated air conditioning.” (That’s what we used to call it.) ….. Daytime temperatures were blazing hot, but nighttime temps usually cooled down. Still, we had a swamp cooler mounted in one of the windows and sometimes it was effective and sometimes not. For those who aren’t familiar with swamp coolers, what it amounts to is a big metal box insulated with straw or some other product that water will pass through, surrounding a big fan. This works pretty well in dry climates, but would be miserable in humid climates, such as North Central Texas.
What I recall is it usually made so much noise we couldn’t hold a conversation in the same room and sometimes if the thing wasn’t working right, it threw drops of water out into the room, making everything wet.
The concept of a swamp cooler is centuries old, going all the way back to ancient Romans and Persians. Even that long ago, those who lived in desert climes figured out how to stay cool, even without electricity.
I visited Scotty’s Castle in Death Valley once. That building was cooled by water passing over a rock wall, which made the room almost cold. Again, no electricity. I even wrote about that concept, sort of, in SALVATION, TEXAS.
Air conditioning as we know it first began to transform movie theaters in the thirties. Frequently, attending a movie was the only opportunity some folks had for just cooling off on a hot summer day. And in transforming movie theaters, you could say cool air also transformed movies, period. Increased and regular movie attendance spurred the making of more movies. Eventually employers discovered workers were more productive if they were more comfortable.
I lived in the Pacific Northwest for many years. One of the many things I enjoyed there was life without air conditioning. There, it rarely got hot enough, long enough to suffer much. I got used to living without that blowing air, which was nice. My contacts didn’t dry out and my nose wasn’t stuffy.
How about you? Do you live with or without air conditioning?