Fahrenheit 84

Dawn breaks Saturday as a horrific heat wave holds the Northeast United States, including dear Philadelphia, in a python’s embrace.

I’m out early to buy print cartridges at Staples, then “oral products” at CVS (I have a coupon, of course). It’s not too bad on the street, but I know it will get worse. I plan to stay in, working on filing material I brought home when I left my office for the last time. 

Late in the day I notice the Canadian-built Skymark air-conditioner that cools my condo unit is laboring.

It sounds all right, but although the thermostat is set at 74, the room temperature is 79, then 80, then 82 …

Today it is stuck at 84 and that is uncomfortable. 

Last night it was 82. I could barely dry myself after a shower because the humidity was so high. The dog was moving from spot to spot on the cool floor, and once I hit the bed, I was moist. Not good.

Now it is Sunday. I call three different HVAC companies that service my building and leave messages. It’s Farenheit 84 in my living room and I don’t expect I will hear from any of them until Monday. 

I make a quick Acme run Sunday morning and I break a sweat putting the groceries away. I brace open my condo door to let in some air because the hallway is cooler than my unit. 

The cooling hallway

I finish the newspaper, put on the Phillies and take some time to think about heat and air-conditioning and what a blessing it is, blessing not being too strong a word.

But first — my Fahrenheit 84 headline is a small tip of the hat to Fahrenheit 451, the novel by Ray Bradbury about a future society where books are banned because they contain bad ideas. Like cable TV today.

Books are torched by firemen. (Paper ignites at Fahrenheit 451.) I recommend the book or movie.

I am not giving much away if I tell you there was no air-conditioning in the South Bronx tenement where I grew up. We could not use a room unit, assuming we could afford one, because we lived on the ground floor and a window a/c unit would have been an invitation to burglars. The Brooklyn public housing project we moved to when I was in high school had central air. Paradise!

Back in The Bronx, the Ace movie theater on Southern Boulevard near my home hung out a big banner in the summer that said “Air Cooled.”

You know what that meant? A huge fan in each of the four corners of the theater. “Air Cooled,” not “Air-Conditioned.”  So you looked for a seat near a fan. 

My first newspaper job, at New York’s World-Telegram and Sun, also was cooled by fans, which meant piles of papers were held down by lead slugs that came from Linotype machines that set type. Windows in the newsroom were flung open, which admitted some cool breezes, and many unpleasant insects. 

Since there was no air-conditioning, children played outdoors where generally it was cooler than the apartment. Rotating fans helped a little, but not that much. Ditto floor fans.

I remember being in bed, sweating, waiting for sleep to come. I dreamed of someday being so well-off I could live in air-conditioned comfort.

I thought I got there, but here I am, sweating in Fahrenheit 84.

Without air-conditioning, the movie industry would not have moved to Hollywood from New York. 

Without air-conditioning, the retirement Mecca might be the Poconos rather than Florida. 

Without air-conditioning, the entire Southwest would have remained cactus and tumbleweed, with bumpkin-filled towns along the Interstate.

I want to dream up some other things made possible by air-conditioning, but, really, it’s too damn hot.

18 thoughts on “Fahrenheit 84”

  1. The air conditioners installed in the Northeast are only set to reduce temperatures about 20 degrees in “normal” humidity. There are better units manufactured to handle higher temperatures and humidity but it’s such a rarity in the area they are deemed not cost effective. Hence, you’re stuck at 84. You’re also in a condo so your stuck getting permission or waiting for someone else to do the maintenance. I bet that’s because you don’t consider yourself handy and don’t want the expense of home repairs. Welcome to reality. You’re paying for it one way or another.

    Other thought…. interesting idea what temperature far left news media such as the Inquirer will “burn” as in the movie?

    Last thought, I retired to Florida on the Space Coast and all my friends and family told me I’d boil in the heat. It’s cooler here than Philadelphia and my AC is running just fine at 76. Since you’re still a die hard Democrat voter please stay in Philadelphia.

      1. Ok so how about Life Long Democrat.

        Naming a few Republicans you voted for just means you aren’t crazy enough to vote for Jimmy Carter a second time or Al Gore, ever.

        I get it, the Right Wing Nuts seemed to have taken over the Republican Party but amazingly got squashed by Trump who surely has his own unique issues. The Democrats now all appear to be using the same dangerously socialist Left Wing Nut playbook, or at the very least pandering to them.

        My point was as a life long Democrat, you’re likely to return to form and vote for Democrats if you moved to a State like Florida that has low taxes, less government regulation and very good schools.

  2. My American-made Commercial Cool 13,000 BTU portable airconditoner only got my third floor apartment down to 79. I grew up in the posh Philadelphia suburbs of Radnor and always had central air conditioning. Growing up in suburbs gives some kids a false sense of “roughing-it” as it did me. A lot of successful people come out of The Bronx and Brooklyn (DeNiro, Pacino, Scorsese, Romero); good training grounds, the suburbs felt to me like a melon patch.

  3. Sounds terrible…..you should move to Sequim….I’m about 20 miles across the Juan de Fuca Strait from Canada. It’s going to be hot today….high of 73….Lots of retirees here…..and farms, elk , eagles, snow-covered mountains….THINK COOL!!!

  4. For what it’s worth, start a political party in Philadelphia called “It’s Too Damn Hot!” and run for mayor. In 1993, James McMillan started “The Rent Is Too Damn High” Party in New York and ran for mayor. Better yet, call your party “It’s Too Damn Hot and The Rent Is Too Damn High.”

  5. Old school was for me was taking a cold shower, and waiting as long as possible in cold water to cool down my core.

    Going to bed wet with a fan.

    Now my ac is set at 75 and I am not cool!

    Hope it works out soon for you!

      1. Could be freon.
        Or a replacement compressor.

        If it’s freon, the “old” freon must be removed with a vaccuum before adding the “new”.

        Good luck!

  6. I grew up in New England in a house with no air conditioning and spent 10 years in Central Florida where you only need the AC during May through September. Growing up I spent my time in the local library, it was air conditioned and free. Another option was going to the movies.
    At night I ran a fan by the bed, opened the windows, and got sweaty.

  7. When I grew up in Kensington, we had one window A/C for the front bedroom. What I never realized until I moved to Texas was how much that retained the heat at night and how much a difference it made. 100% humidity down there felt relaxing compared to Philadelphia.

    I’m sort of lucky, excessive heat or cold doesn’t bother me.

    Circulate the air and drink cold stuff, Stu. You’ll be freezing your butt off soon enough.

  8. You could come to Cape Cod where it is so much cooler…but right now we are having tornados…and there are still sharks in the water…so….maybe postpone for now.

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