Thursday, September 2, 2010

The September Post

September is here at last, and with that I can say “I made it!”—another summer without air conditioning at my apartment. This makes two out of three years since I undertook the no-AC goal. I resorted to using the AC a few times last year, which is why it's two out of three and not three out of three. This year, I was never once tempted. I think last year's summer was hotter than this summer.

There are many things I forgo that are somewhat exceptional given my demographic membership in the American middle class. Here's a quick list off the top of my head.

  • No AC at home
  • No Internet access at home
  • No furniture at home, notably a bed
  • No television, of course!
  • No microwave
  • No car
  • No traditional underwear—well, not often
  • No deodorant and/or antiperspirant
  • No QWERTY keyboard (except when I must)

This list contains many things that many people consider necessities, and yet the two things that most people don't get when I talk about them are the no-AC and no-bed things. The no-bed thing I try to explain by saying that after sleeping on the floor, you can sleep comfortably on nearly any surface and that this is a practical form of self-empowerment—ever sleep overnight in an airport?—but this is not easily understood by most people. I can accept this.

However, residential air conditioning has not been around that long. My father grew up in one of the warmest, muggiest areas in the country and without air conditioning. As a nation, we're far from having removed the generational experience of the no-AC lifestyle, and yet we treat cool air during the summer as a necessity. Whereas not owning a bed will save you, more or less, almost no money over the long term, not using AC will save the average household a good chunk of change over the course of a single year. You might think that people would be interested in pursuing an AC-free or AC-lite lifestyle if only for the monetary savings, no?

I think the money-saving issue is the small gain to be had. Since going without AC at home, I've discovered myself to become progressively mentally tougher in dealing with physically unpleasant situations. I've turned a need—and a rather demanding one at that—back into a want (or even a lack of a want). That's a really powerful thing to do. In fact, I would say it's one of the only real freedoms in life.

Then again, maybe my valuing money less and self-empowerment more has to do with how the apartment complex where I currently reside doesn't have individually metered units and I pay a flat fee for electricity—meaning, I pay the same every month regardless of my use. Maybe it's when people hear a guy who gets “free” electricity and voluntarily decides not to use AC that they stop listening. I can accept that.

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