A sweater and a blanket on a hot August afternoon

Air conditioning traces its history to Brooklyn, New York in 1902. Willis Carrier, yes the man whose name remains the trademark of the company he created, was an engineer given the task of cooling down a hot printing facility. Carrier discovered the connection between heat and humidity, and with the advent of compressors pumping sub-zero temperature freon over copper coils, he transformed the world.

Before Carrier’s invention, the deep south, Texas, and the American Southwest were areas to avoid in summer. The heat limited factory expansion in those regions and kept available workers away in the more temperate northern states and the Northwest of the upper half of California, Oregon, and Washington.

Suddenly restaurants and theaters, especially the newly arrive movie theaters and wealthy homes began to expand into the former heat of these areas.

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In the Great Depression, many people sought relief from the heat in all-night movie theaters. For a nickel and a set of ear plugs after the “talkies” arrived, you could get a little rest in the theater and relief from the heat.

I remembered that little tidbit of history I’d gleaned in reading about how people adapted to life in the “Dirty 30s” and Great Depression a few years ago when my wife Sue and I took an August trip to Las Vegas.

As anyone who has been to Sin City knows, July, August and early September are terrible times to catch a show on the Strip, do a little shopping, or lose money at the gaming tables. Our schedule didn’t permit our original November trip, so we decided to try Vegas in the summer.

It was hot, 108 degrees, but the locals I spoke with told us it was often much hotter. We stayed at the Luxor and decided to walk the length of the strip.

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I wasn’t too bad in the low 90s in the early morning, but by afternoon, the temperature was well above the century mark.

We had tickets for the Jersey Boys at the Venetian in an early evening show and had the dilemma of returning to the Luxor via tram, or a cab, or just waiting it out for the dinner we had planned in a restaurant adjacent to the Venetian.

As we trudged in the heat, a thought quickly formed, “Why not a movie?” We saw a sign for a movie theater on a side street and headed that way. Sue is not a science fiction fan, but I love the genre.

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“Guardians of the Galaxy” was showing in an afternoon matinee. We bought our tickets, Sue promptly fell asleep and I enjoyed the film in the chilly air of a vacant Vegas theater, we were the only ones there.

Sue woke up early and told me she was cold, a common occurrence these days in any venue we attend.

She puts on a sweater to grocery shop at Smith’s in July. Earlier this month on a 101-degree afternoon in Ft. Robinson, Nebraska she wore a sweater again to the Post Playhouse Theater. Just before the show began I went out to our Terrain and retrieved a blanket for her. With her sweater on tight, and wrapped in a blanket she was still a little chilly, but survived the show.

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Last week at a visit to the Museum of Military Vehicles in Dubois, she had the sweater on again. I’ll admit, the air was cool in Dubois, Ft. Robinson, and that afternoon in Las Vegas, but what gives? Why is there suddenly a need to reduce the temperature in stores, theaters, museums, and everyone else so low during the summer months that you could hang meat in most facilities?

It’s a statement that always generates an eye roll from women, but it’s one I believe to be true.

I often say, “Everyone is comfortable at 78 degrees. Men are comfortable from 48 to 108, and women from 76.5 to 79.5,” hence the eye roll.

In an era where energy prices are constantly manipulated to the point they cripple every other aspect of the economy just so big oil can record obscene profits, why does the temperature have to be so low?

The one place you don’t have to worry about manipulation is the great outdoors. My record heat for baling and picking up hay is 107 degrees, and I thought my truck thermometer was broken since it didn’t feel that hot, but the bank clock on Main Street in Riverton verified it.

On the other extreme, I’ve heard claims of 54 below zero in Fremont County, but my personal experience is only negative 38. Working outside in this depth of cold isn’t that bad. I’ve never felt cold in those subzero temperatures, but strangely, when I go back inside, take off my Carhart coat, overalls, gloves, and boots, and have a bite to eat, I’m suddenly chilled, sometimes starting to shiver.

We can regulate the weather to our liking thanks to Mr. Carrier, but the cost of fuel makes me wonder why some places have the thermostat set in the 50s on a bright summer afternoon.

The concept of air conditioning is easy. Just get a way to move the air, reduce the humidity and push it over frozen level copper coils and the room gets cooler, but does it always have to be that cold?

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