I dread the summer in Miami. Not for the heat but for the cold. Specifically, the bone-crushing cold of Miami’s public buildings. I used to have no problem with air conditioning; in fact, I quite liked the idea of it. The removal of heat from indoors air for thermal comfort. Sounds good to me.
I endured a summer in New York without air conditioning. I would have sold a kidney for mechanical cooling that summer, but I was broke. My roommates and I relied on DIY cooling techniques such as, placing a pillow in the freezer before sleep, 3 a.m. showers and blowing the fan over ice-filled bottles. None of these techniques really worked.
I’ll never forget the torturous rattle of my neighbors AC unit, as I lay awake at night. I had dark fantasies of ripping it from his window and placing it in mine.
So let’s face it. We couldn’t spend summers in Miami if it weren’t for air conditioning. The entire state of Florida would be uninhabitable and was, before the 1950s when “manmade weather” became a household must. Sun Belt cities such as Miami have AC to thank for their explosive post WWII growth.
The only problem is that in Miami, air modification has been taken to the extreme. I feel a new reality show coming on in the vein of survival. Call it Extreme AC. Put 10 Miamians in a room and keep lowering the temperature until they can’t stand it any more. Like one of those Japanese torture shows.
AC has forced me to become a stripper. My latest comic act is “clothes juggling.” Wrapping in layers for indoors, stripping off for the outdoors. I no longer enter Starbucks, preferring to use their drive thru, although it’s only a matter of time before they start blasting frigid air into that area, too.
I’m awed at the stamina of Miamians who can sit in arctic offices in shirtsleeves. I think it’s like a macho thing. Heads turn when I pull on my 1,000-fill power, goose-down North Face coat. See, I’m Irish. I don’t mess around with the cold. I take thermally efficient forms of insulation seriously. I’ve got my down pants and balaclava ordered for when they really start to crank the AC in July.
Incidentally, (for Miamians who might not be familiar with heat-retaining garments) a balaclava is a cloth mask placed over the head in colder climates. Got it?
Miamians like their AC and they like it freezing — or do they? Has any public representative actually researched the optimum temperature for a public building? Has a study been done? Now, there’s a university doctorate in the waiting.
Why are all public buildings and restaurants bone-chillingly freezing? Why do all AC units in Miami have to be set at -40 Celsius? I fled Ireland to get away from those kinds of temperatures. There is no such thing as AC in Ireland. We have our own highly sophisticated mechanical cooling system. It’s called, opening the window.
When I leave the meat-locker that is my office, I drive home without AC. The window remains rolled up until I thaw out and before the frostbite sets in. I now avoid libraries, movie theaters and any indoor public place. I’ve considered taking up smoking just to escape the frigid temperatures of the office. Forget smoke break, I’m goin’ for a thaw break!
I thought I was done with my thermal coats and wooly hats when I left Dublin for the heat of Miami. But I was mistaken. Now, don’t get me wrong. I think bone-crushing cold is necessary for some indoor spaces, say, a funeral home, but can’t they ease up on the rest of Miamians who are still warm blooded?
It’s a simple plea. Lighten up on the AC — even just a little.
Lucie O’Sullivan, who graduated from Trinity College in Dublin with a bachelor’s degree in theology, is a freelance writer in Miami.