So it’s not that I’m tough, or stoic – in fact, I’m a huge whiner; ask my girlfriend – it’s just that by the time the heat index hit 133 here in New York, I’d been fully acclimatized by a month and a half of sweating it out.
But if you’re one of the 90% of Americans with air conditioning, and you sleep and live in an artificially cooled environment, not to mention work eight, nine hours a day in an office – they are notoriously chilly – your body never gets to acclimatize. Those few minutes you spend outside, panting from frigid office to frigid home or vice versa, are going to feel hellish, even if it’s only in the 80s. Air conditioning isn’t the solution – it’s the problem.
But then, not all of those 90% of American households with a/c are affluent – not even close. The American insistence on air conditioning comes down to something in the national character, I think. The American aversion to heat is essentially defiant, a conquest of the environment, a refusal to have the temperature dictated to you by the planet. It’s manifest destiny and global imperialism applied to the living room thermostat – the “Don’t Tread On Me” flag, but the snake is in a 64-degree office with windows that don’t open, as the world burns outside.