Roughing It

Why does the air conditioner conk out only when it is hot outside? Granted, there is not much opportunity for the unit to fail during winter, but it does see a modicum of use in the warm yet bearable temperatures like eighty degrees. Why can’t it fail early or late in the season, instead of during peak July and August heat waves?

Mine failed last week. The house is pretty well insulated, so when it is cool inside, it tends to stay cool. However, the good insulation also means once it is hot, the heat is trapped and difficult to get rid of. Such has been my time in the house the past few days. Temperatures kept climbing, inside and out, and no amount of nighttime open windows and full blast ceiling fans were enough to cool the inside to a tolerable level.

I’m not a person that likes to be hot. Overheating affects my two most valued personal things: thinking and sleeping. I can suspend thinking for a day or two without anyone noticing, but sleeping? I kicked the caffeine habit cold turkey recently; I thought the change would make me more groggy, but it did the opposite: I couldn’t sleep for more than a couple hours. I became cranky, irritable, and a general nuisance to myself. Given my high tolerance to personal flaws, I can only guess how terrible I was to others. Back on caffeine, the effects disappeared. I’m now slowly weaning myself from the habit drop by drop; merely the thought of proceeding faster irritates me.

Hot nighttime temperatures do the same thing as caffeine withdrawal. And when I can’t sleep, I can’t think. So when I become a terrible annoying nuisance to others, I don’t think enough about it to stop or to care.

On the other hand, if I’m too cold at night, my body goes into shock, and I wake up nauseous. And I can’t get back to sleep. And I become a terrible annoying nuisance who doesn’t think or care. My body has a two degree optimum nighttime temperature zone; merely the thought of sleeping outside that range irritates me.

It is for this reason I am not a camper. I like the wilderness and I love the great outdoors. I enjoy the smell of a campfire, tasty cookouts, and the peace and quiet of a secluded area. And in the dark night of remoteness, I could stare at the stars for hours, the ones that reveal themselves from under the blanket of urban light pollution.

But I wouldn’t sleep. I cannot sleep in a sack on the ground knowing it does not maintain my desired sleep temperature. I cannot call a thin layer of nylon “shelter” if it cannot keep the temps inside within my sleep zone. Furthermore, I cannot wake up more than twenty feet from modern flushable plumbing, and cannot spend a full day more than a ten minute distance from a decent restaurant. Merely the thought of it irritates me.

It is for these reasons I joke to my friends that my version of roughing it is staying in a hotel that is less than three stories tall and more than five minutes from a sandwich shop. But it is no joke. My house has a broken air conditioner, it is eighty-two degrees inside at night, and I can’t sleep. And I can’t think. Just like I’m roughing it in a crappy motel. And it is hell.