Sunday, July 20, 2008

Winter Keeps Us Warm

I never thought I would refer to T.S. Eliot twice in a short span of time. As I've mentioned, I'm not big on poetry, and it sometimes seems to me that I spent half of my college career slogging through The Waste Land and trying to make sense of it.

Only one line really stuck with me through the years: "Winter kept us warm." I mean, what the heck did that mean? I hate being cold and therefore have always hated winter, and couldn't figure out what ole Eliot was getting at.

Today, as I shivered once again in the middle of a typical Georgia heat wave, I understood. That's right--we're having a heat wave and I'm shivering. If you're cold-natured like me and you've ever spent spring or summer in Georgia, you'll know what I'm talking about--a little thing called "air conditioning."

Lately, in winter, I do fine. I put on my boots and my sweaters and, except in those really bad cold snaps, do fine. The central heating in all the public buildings is generally kept at a reasonable level, so all is well. In other words, winter keeps me warm.

But just let the outside temperature climb to about 65 degrees, and everyone runs for their air conditioners. They may have to set them on 62 to make any difference, but if that's what it takes, by golly, they'll do it.

Most public buildings feel like meat lockers. I tend to dress in layers, wearing sleeveless blouses so I can make it from my car to a building in the blazing heat without fainting, then whipping out my sweater the moment I get inside. Occasionally, as the blasts from the a.c. vents and ceiling fans whip around my head, I wish that women still wore hats.

The interesting thing to me is that everyone talks about "going green" and conserving, but no one seems to be scrimping on the air conditioning around here. A couple of years ago I stayed in a ritzy hotel that had little printed notices all around the room about their conservation efforts. They boasted that they wouldn't be changing my sheets every day for the sake of the environment, and they asked me to re-use my towels. And yet, the air conditioning was set on 58 degrees when I came in! Worse yet, after I turned it WAY up, the housekeeping staff turned it back down the next day.

Church is interesting, too. The men are all dressed in shirts, coats and ties, and thick socks. Women are in sleeveless dresses, with no stockings and sandals. How can anyone possibly get the temperature right with a disparity like that?

Personally, I think the men are winning.