Thursday, July 05, 2018

It's Hot in the City 


Maybe looking at Wayne Thiebaud's “Untitled (Three Ice Creams)” from 1964 will cool you down.

You know it’s really hot when you step out of your air conditioned office to find yourself relieved that it’s only 28°C with 66% humidity instead of “boil-you-alive° C” with “you’ll-never-feel-dry-again%” humidity. I spent most of the weekend lying prone in front of a fan, trying not to move for fear the exertion of say, batting an eyelash, may lead to more sweating. I’m starting to think the scientist who said, “sweating is the body’s built-in air conditioner” never really knew what an air conditioner was, or what “sweating” was, or what “built-in” meant. I realize that weather isn’t climate and one heat wave during one summer isn’t proof that we’re destroying the planet yet it feels so much like what I imagine the end-of-times would feel like, that blaming something like climate change feels good. Not "comfortably dry at 23°C" good, but the kind of good like when you curse after stubbing your toe. It does nothing but it mends the psyche if not the toe.

One thing did occur to me during the hottest moments of the weekend. Feeling near death in the punishing heat is sort of an ailment of the poor or the slightly less privileged. People who can retreat to air conditioned homes have something that people living in older sweltering apartments do not. People who drive with their vehicles sealed shut while running their A/C on full blast are far more comfortable than those walking the hot sidewalks or riding the older stifling streetcars. Air conditioning used to be considered a luxury but it has become a necessity of life. During a heat wave the city advises those without air conditioning to seek out cooling centres. Air conditioning is as essential to a modern city as elevators. You can’t live in a tall building without an elevator to take you to your floor and you can’t live on that floor of a tall building (essentially a chimney stack with rooms) without air conditioning.
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