We think of air conditioning as a “first world” luxury, but it’s really more of an American one. In Europe, fewer than 5% of households have air conditioning, according to the International Energy Agency, and even in hot regions like Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, only 8% of households have it. In the US, nearly 90% of households are air conditioned.
In New York, where the summer reverberates with the hum of air conditioners, that percentage seems even higher. Along certain avenues, you walk in a sprinkle of condensation dripping from row after row of window units above, never quite sure if you’re supposed to be disgusted. In Queens, where I live, one of my neighbors runs their window unit almost all year long, cooling their apartment in winter against the steam radiator that the landlord keeps on full blast around the clock, and in summer against, well, the summer. The poor unit only gets a couple months of rest a year, in the spring and the fall, though even then the person often runs it in fan mode, probably because the sudden absence of the machine’s roar is so unnerving.
Air - Conditioner - Acquaintances - Flat-out - Others
I don’t have an air conditioner, and never have. When I mention this to acquaintances, some flat-out don’t believe me; others seem concerned for my health, begging me to accept old window units they have in their closets. My parents offer to wire me money so I can buy one. I don’t decline their offers out of pride, or stubbornness. It really just doesn’t feel that hot to me. Even when the heat index hit 133 this July, I only noticed because of all the people on social media proclaiming they weren’t going to leave the house that day. I have a thermometer on my living room wall, so...
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