The hot summer of the cold war

August 26, 2018


It’s almost September, which in the South is still full-blown-hot-steamy summertime, but I’m already counting the days until I can toss off my sweaters and warm up because there’s an abuse of air-conditioning going on and I’ve spent yet another summer shivering.

This “cold war” has followed the current trend of taking a good thing and over-doing it. Southerners especially love to blow things up — both figuratively and literally. “Sports are fun, so let’s sign RoyRay up for 14 different teams and decorate our rumpus room in the colors of our favorite NFL team –oh wait, no more NFL since they don’t love America. Let’s go with the high school team colors instead.”

“I wish I was a mermaid” said every woman who ever visited Gulf Shores. So, on their way back to Cullman, Chapel Ann and Addi Beth will stop at the giant shark store to grab a bag full of mermaid shirts, picture frames, wreaths (with turquoise silk flowers to mimic the water), sun glasses, shot glasses and of course, mermaid decals for the back window of their cars (to the left of the monograms).

Body “art,” growing tomatoes, and hanging animal heads on the wall — you name it, we love to overdo it. Just stroll through a big-box store or the Catfish Festival, and you’ll see things that started out good, but were magnified to the point of horror.

This amplification of the basics is what led some to believe if “cool” is good, then “cold” is better and “frozen solid” with hints of numbness must be supreme.

Before we cooled things off down here, no one bothered us. We had all the space we wanted to spread out and relax. Destin’s beaches were pristine, and you didn’t have to wait for a table at Birmingham restaurants. Atlanta hotels didn’t require reservations and there was no such thing as monster traffic. The heat wasn’t so bad because we were bred to deal with it. The northerners skedaddled back to Michigan when temperatures poked 75 degrees, but we were from sturdy stock and didn’t notice when our legs stuck to the car seats.

My dorm room in hot-as-you-know-what Tallahassee was un-airconditioned. Since most of us had been raised in Florida, we were tough and just made a little game of fanning ourselves in the windows, (extra points for causing a wreck), but nowadays, the parents would launch wild lawsuits of abuse if their children were subjected to such inhumane conditions.

The inventor of the modern air-conditioner was Willis Carrier, who by the way, was born in New York (so there’s the conspiracy theory of the day). Carrier’s invention did away with Southern front porches, charming screen doors, humming box fans, swimming in the creek and parties with ice-cold bottles of Co-Cola.  He ruined us all.

My theory is that it’s the Yankees who have wrangled control of our thermostats and cranked them low to remind them of home. Meanwhile, our Southern hands feel chewed-up by the cold in restaurants and our noses turn blue in movie theaters. Our knees knock together in church and forget about lingering in Piggly Wiggly because you’ll eventually fall over, stiff as a board on Sister Schubert’s Parker House rolls.

While the girls from back in my dorm days are dreading hot energy surges, I look forward to anything that will warm me up — like winter.


This story first appeared on HERE and in the Mobile Press-Register, Birmingham News and Huntsville Times. 

  • Martin Belcher says:

    It is so very ironic that you wrote this piece. Around 25 years ago an old frat brother of mine sat over a good bottle of bourbon and pondered just when it was that the second invasion of the south occurred and why. As we postulated various theories,fueled I must say by increasing glasses of bourbon, we finally hit upon the catalyst that spurred the unwelcomed migration. AIR CONDITIONING. You see , growing up in the 50 ‘s and early60’s most of us did not have air conditioning. As such it kept away all but the most hardy northern species away. In the 60 ‘s when it became the norm ,in they flocked. So ,our conclusion, which happened to coincide with the demise of the bottle of bourbon, was to outlaw air conditioning so all of the uninvited Yankees would just go back home.

  • You are brilliant! Since the entire state of Ohio has moved to S.C., if we turned off the A/C maybe they would all move home!! I’m sitting on my screen porch right now…it’s about 90 and the fan is going. Perfection!

    • Sounds delightful! Ohio folks aren’t so bad. A few have drifted this way and they are much more charming than . . . oh, never mind.

      • Ohioans are very charming folks, salt of the earth! My hometown of Mt. Pleasant is about to fall into the Atlantic from all the traffic though. Population has exploded from 6,000 to 87,000. Gone are the days when everybody knew their neighbors and didn’t lock their doors. Oh well, that is progress.

  • Ha, at this very minute — on steamy August 27 — I’m running the portable heater in my office because it’s freezing. After wishing I could wrap up in the tablecloth at restaurants, I’ve learned to take a sweater or jacket no matter how blistering hot it is outside. My sister posted a photo of her youngest starting high school today and he’s wearing a sweat jacket. I asked what’s going on!? That part of NC is much muggier and hotter than Atlanta. She said the air conditioning at school is so cold the kids have to wear jackets. Isn’t that an ironic waste of energy? Insanity reigns everywhere. No money for teachers (supposedly) and yet they waste natural resources freezing the young’uns.

    I totally agree with the Yankee conspiracy and wish we could go back to those screen door days. Sleep porch anyone!?

  • My high school in central Florida was not air conditioned, but thankfully my dorm in Atlanta was! I’m Southern born and bred but the past fifteen or so years I’v lost the ability to tolerate heat, and I don’t glisten anymore, I sweat! I have yet to find a store or restaurant or church thats cool enough for me! The local electric utility loves me because I keep my house so cold. Friends and family come into my house and tell me I could hang meat in my living room. My response is always “And your point is?” I keep a basket of throw blankets out at all times and have a selection of sweatshirts available for them.

    I sleep with the a/c down below 70, a ceiling fan on and a box fan aimed at me too. My late husband, bless his heart, had to move to heaven to sleep in climate controlled comfort after years of shivering under blankets next to me and my fans all night!

    And you might think after all the above I look forward to winter and slightly cooler temps. But I don’t because I hate the dry heat of the furnace and the overly warm stores.

    Obviously, I have issues!

  • Good one. I read something the other day where the lady carried an extra large scarf for the “over zealous” air conditioning. I carry a sweater every time we go out to eat which drives my husband crazy. He says people are looking at me like I have lost my mind:)
    My dorm room at Auburn was not air conditioned and I survived. Well shoot, for that matter… I didn’t have air conditioning until I reached high school for my education, and they didn’t run it much because it was too expensive.

    • My husband feels the same way about the sweaters I take with me all summer. Especially to church and the movie theatre.

  • I’ve laughed my way to the end as I shiver a little! I love my cold house……….
    You sure gave me a good chuckle Leslie Anne.

    • So you’re the one who lowers the thermostat at your house! There’s always one!

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