In the past, humankind took their oxygen any way they could.
Whether said oxygen seared a person’s nostrils or froze his lungs solid, whether accompanied by itchy allergens or Eau de Outhouse, he inhaled without question, never considering the possibility of an alternative.
Until Willis Carrier created the air conditioner.
Now, during summer, air-conditioning addicts and fresh-air freaks vie for domination.
Air-conditioning addicts consider Carrier their patron saint. They hole up during summer as if a three-month blizzard has struck.
I value air-conditioning on steamy summer days. Carrier’s blessed invention cools us and drains wet-cotton humidity from the air.
Yet, I crack windows a smidgen. No matter how bracing the air-conditioned breezes, I must mix fresh air to create my respiratory system’s favorite elixir.
I write every morning beside open patio doors. Riding my bike, I inhale the perfume of cool forests and wild roses that compete with blacktop’s tarry smell. I drive down country roads with windows wide open, the radio blaring.
However, I am not the radical my father is. During Louisiana’s hundred-degree weather, he runs his window air conditioner, but also throws open doors and windows to sanctify its fake chilly oxygen.
My mother, on the other hand, fostered a love/hate relationship with air au naturel. During my childhood, she chased us out of the house in the hottest weather: “Fresh air is good for you!”
Why wasn’t it good for her? The dichotomy seemed so unjust. She got to remain inside with a fan — while ironing for seven and canning vast quantities of pickles and tomatoes.
Yet air-conditioning became Mom’s archenemy. Before we entered a truck stop for Sunday hamburgers, she bundled up as if facing a November blast. Regardless of where we sat, a deadly draft lurked among the little table juke boxes.
My husband’s family, though raised on “fresh country air” (their reference to hog farm aromas), prefer air-conditioning. Drive a country road with fresh air? Only when pigs fly — and take their fragrance elsewhere.
So, as often happens, we have a mixed marriage, fresh-air freak wed to air-conditioning addict. My husband views car windows as vision aids only and had the nerve to demand I quit my crack-the-window habit at night.
After a few decades, though, he gave up. “Only God can change your mind.”
Recently I was snoozing away when a sudden wet blast, like that of a garden hose, sent me flying to shut the window.
Lightning, like a camera’s flash, lit his smirk. “Maybe God’s trying to tell you something?”
I covered my head with damp pillow and bedclothes. I prayed my husband might change his stubborn attitude. That we would survive another season in the same space. …
So we can turn our mixed-marriage attention to the winter thermostat debate.
Which are you: fresh-air freak or air-conditioning addict?