We grew up in the South in the 1980s and 1990s.
- It was a totally air-conditioned world–air conditioned homes, air-conditioned businesses, air-conditioned cars and air-conditioned buses.
Every public building from libraries to the post office to the police department was also air-conditioned. We expected it. We demanded it. And if we didn’t hear the hum of an air-conditioning unit somewhere, we knew something was wrong. The heat, especially in the summer months, was simply intolerable otherwise. But on one occasion, our neighborhood lost power and we went without air-conditioning for an entire week. We never knew the cause of the outage, but we sure felt every second of it. A blanket of heat trapped us. We could feel the heat on our skin as if it were touching us. We could feel it in our lungs, heating our bodies from the inside out. We could even feel it on the tips of our hair! That heat was heavy and it was painful. Of course we did everything we could to stay cool, including sitting outside in wet clothes and standing in the shower for long stretches. We hadn’t realized how much we appreciated air-conditioning, how vital it was to our daily lives, and how much we took it for granted. Then one day while we were sitting outside, we heard a faint hum. At first, it was so distant we could barely hear it, but then it grew louder and louder until it folded itself into the silence and became part of the background noise surrounding us. “The power’s back on!” someone from up the street yelled. We immediately ran inside the house, and sure enough, the air-conditioner was pumping cool, clean air throughout the house. We breathed a sigh of relief and let it dry our sweat before cleaning up. We were so grateful for air-conditioning and thanked our lucky stars that though we lived in a difficult climate, we did so in a time when the technology of air-conditioning had been nearly perfected.