Friday, March 4, 2011

It's Frigid & I Need a Fan

I grew up in San Antonio, Texas, where the sun always shines unless the city suffers a torrential downpour: even then, temperatures soar. Submitting to a San Antonio “cold front” is akin to staying home from school when you have a headache and mild sore throat. You think, “Hey, I feel sick. Not that sick, but kind of sick. I’m sure the day may come this school year when I feel worse, and I should probably save my “sick day” for then, but what if it never comes? Then I won’t have taken any sick days, and that's just pathetic.”

This logic seduces San Antonians into pulling out wool sweaters, gloves and padded North Face jackets as soon as the climate dips below 65 degrees, which happens approximately ten times a year. As the day carries on, the sun rises higher, bringing temperatures well above what was only marginally sweater-acceptable. Quick solution? Crank up the A.C.

Growing up, I never realized that in some parts of the world people don’t breathe in chemically-produced air. In Europe, people bypass air conditioners altogether, even during legitimate heat waves when they use a small fan, strip off outermost layers, and deal with it. 

We Texans are completely unable to self-regulate our bodily temperatures having become so dependent on air-conditioning, which is why I—at least once every summer—go out to play tennis and faint, then vomit, on the court.

And why I can barely stand to travel to places without air-conditioning, having adopted a very justifiable phobia of heat-induced embarrassment.  In Africa, where I spent several months this year and last, I feared the worst: fainting on day one in front of a handsome crew of European volunteers. I would have likely fallen into a lion enclosure, on top of a thorn brush, atop a mamba's den. 

I can only imagine, “Did you hear? The fat, loud American fainted and died. She probably ate too many cookies this morning.”

My body miraculously began to adjust, probably because I was a) so excited to be nearby wild cats and b) careful not to give my European friends any (additional) reason to despise Americans.

Now I have only one man-made temperature regulator to conquer: the HEATER.

The complete inverse of the mega, Texas-style A.C.

We never, and I mean never, had any cause to utilize our heater. When I went to college on the East Coast, I came to understand that it would be turned on for several months of the year, but I simply couldn’t tolerate the feel or smell of it. I feel nauseous just thinking about those first interactions with the brutal force beneath the window.

I struck a deal with my roommate: she could turn on the heater (on her side of the room) if I could open the window. I’m not sure why she agreed, because my window surely defeated any effort exerted by her heater, but the deal was struck, and we stuck to it. Similar compromises kept me sane throughout following shared living arrangements, but I’ve recently moved into buildings where I have no control whatsoever of the people beneath me. And, wanting a better view of outside surroundings, I insist on living on elevated floors where remnant heat from lower floors gathers like an incendiary mob.

Things are particularly bad in my new Manhattan apartment. Without a ceiling fan to combat the rising heat, I have been compelled to open my windows every night. But this isn’t San Antonio, Austin, Wake Forest, London, or D.C. The sounds that waft through my window  aren’t just people chatting or dogs barking: there are jackhammers; ambulances; and drunken transvestites.

I must, then, go purchase a fan. White noise will save me.

Surely this will be an easy task to accomplish given that I live in NEW YORK, the city that never sleeps, where every THING is available all the TIME.

I walk to the Duane Reade across the street and politely ask for a fan.

“A what?”

“A fan.”

“A heater?”

“No, a small desk fan.”

“It’s winter.”

“I know, I just want one.”

“We don’t carry them now. They’re seasonal.”

I’m off, this time to Bed, Bath and Beyond, the mecca of all things house-related. They offer the same paltry explanation with slightly more information, “We did have some because people were complaining about the heat in their apartments (probably all the Texans). But we sold out.”

I soon discover that big, obvious-to-the-mind places won’t carry fans for the aforementioned stupid reasons, so I will instead visit every small bodega or local hardware store that I can find. And maybe a few more Duane Reades.

When I query uninterested staff members, they look at me as though I’m crazy. I may as well be asking for methamphetamine or explosives, both of which would probably be easier to come by.

With no apparent remedy and the inability to walk to another Bed, Bath and Beyond (it really is too cold outside), I must do the painfully obvious (and equally annoying, to someone like me) thing: order one online.

It will come, sooner rather than later, and I will finally sleep to the sound of small blades gathering dust. And then, just as folks finally power down their heating units, I’ll be back on the hunt again: for a window unit.

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