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A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream

Jul 22, 2014

Hark! What light through yon window breaks? Could it be the dawn, arriving before my weary mind hath been anointed with the sweet oil of slumber? Or, perchance, a fiery bolt of lightning from the hand of Zeus, herald of a summer tempest that will rend the dome of heaven and unleash upon this earth ...

Wait ... it's just a car driving by on the gravel road. That's the third one since I've been lying here awake. What in the world are these people doing out and about at 3:48 a.m.?

Make that 3:49 a.m.

These are the times when a man peers deep into his soul and wonders. Am I a good husband? Will my children always be healthy? Do I smell gas? What's that twinge? Could it be cancer? Will the Vikings ever get a decent quarterback?

In addition to these universal concerns, there is one more question that torments me on these long summer nights. As I lie hot and miserable in a cloud of my own perspiration I ask: Should this be the year I break down and buy an air conditioner?

Every year at our house the same thing happens. When really hot weather starts coming on we launch Operation No Sweat. Open up the windows at night, close them in the morning, pull the window shades down on the south side, etc. etc. This works — sort of.

For a few days the house stays pretty cool. We walk around pleased with ourselves, mentally calculating how much we're not spending on electricity to run an air conditioner. Then it drags into the second week. The house isn't quite as cool in the morning as it used to be. Our weather standards get lowered considerably. "Good news," I gasp to my wife, my tongue bloated with heat. "It's only supposed to be 95 tomorrow instead of 100."

By the third week the whole family is having feverish hallucinations. When we're not delirious we're cranky. In the middle of the night I sit by the bedroom window, listening as the night wind rustles the tall grass outside. "Please, please, please blow this way," I moan, my nose pressed against the screen.

But the night never listens. "How can that be!" I wail into the inky blackness. "Why can't the breeze ever blow from this side at night?"

"Shut up," my wife says lethargically, her lips barely moving.

Fans help — sort of. Provided you sit right in front of them, and don't think too hard about what is actually going on. I mean, a fan takes 100-degree air from one side of the room and moves it to the other.

Have I missed something here?

Besides, there is only one way that fans and kids can safely coexist in the same house. Lock up every stick, pencil, ruler, screwdriver — in short, anything long and skinny — for the summer. Otherwise, when you least expect it, you'll be startled by a “burrububbuppp-schwinggggg,” followed by a wailing sound from the kid.

There is a powerful triangular attraction between kids, fans and things that can be poked through the grill. No mere parent can hope to counter it.

Sometimes I close my eyes and try to remember what January felt like, hoping that will make me appreciate the heat. This has never even come close to working, but I try it every summer nonetheless.

I can hear all you old timers out there. "Quit your whining! When we were young we didn't even start sweating until it hit 105! And we couldn't go to some fancy-schmancy refrigerator and get ice cubes any time we wanted, either. If we wanted an iced cappuccino in July we had to haul ice from the river when it was 400 below and store it underground till then!"

What can I say? Face it, older generation. You raised a bunch of sniveling wimps. It's YOUR fault. YOU spoiled us!

And another thing. When you were young, nobody else had air conditioning either — except for the stores that had a sign on the door saying, "Come on in! It's KOOL inside!" and a penguin smoking a cigarette showing you the way. You older types didn't know what you were missing. Everybody was miserable.

Not me, though. As I lie here at night, heating up like a potato in a microwave, I know there's a better way. If I weren't so cheap I could buy me a window unit and ….

Hold on a minute. I'm getting an idea here. Work with me people! If none of you had air conditioning either, it wouldn’t make me any cooler. But I would feel better about being hot if I knew you were all suffering, too. Let's try that. Everybody turn off your air conditioners, and then maybe I can get some sleep.

Ready. Set. Unplug!

Editor’s Note: This column is revised from the July/August 1997 issue of South Dakota Magazine. To order a copy or to subscribe, call (800) 456-5117.


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