Saturday Diary / The Sisterhood of the Sweating Palms

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The end is near!

The end is near!

Summer is almost over.

Is it me or has this summer been especially hot?

Not the usual two-weeks hot but the "help me ... I'm melting" kind of hot.

There has been much said about global warming. Some believe it's real and others think those people are full of hot air.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that July 2012 was the hottest July and all-time-warmest month on record since national records began in 1895.

I believe it.

Sweltering, stifling and steamy are just three of the adjectives that describe my house this summer.

When I bought it 30 years ago, it didn't have central air conditioning. There was a window unit in one of the upstairs bedrooms but I had it removed because it didn't fit into my decorating plan. Aesthetics trumps comfort (as any woman wearing 4-inch heels will tell you).

Don't get me wrong; I appreciate air conditioning. I have spent many hours at department stores, libraries, movie theaters and grocery stores just to soak up the coolness.

I've even stayed late at work because the Post-Gazette has air conditioning.

Not having this modern convenience makes me feel like I'm one of "the people." After all, most of the people in the world don't have it.

Come to think of it, many of those people are at war. Maybe if there were more air conditioning there would be less fighting. How many conflicts do you hear about in Antarctica or Iceland?

Just something to think about.

I don't know why I'm resisting comfort.

I guess I think it's noble because I'm doing my part for the environment. Air conditioning produces all those bad greenhouse gases and emissions that are bad for the ozone layer.

That said, this summer is making me rethink my principles.

While I may be uncomfortable in my house for those "two weeks" of hot, I really feel sorry for my cat, Trouble. He weighs almost 30 pounds (he's big-boned) and on really hot days will lay on the wood floor with his feet up in the air. I don't know whether he's cooling himself or pantomiming, "It's so hot ... I'm dying!"

Some nights the 90-degree temperature outside feels cooler than inside the house. My mom tells me that in her youth, on hot summer nights in the 1930s, people would take cots and sleep outside in the park. I can't imagine sleeping outside with a bunch of strangers. It sounds like Woodstock or Occupy Pittsburgh.

I have compiled a list of my Top 10 reasons not to have air conditioning:

• All that sweating must be good for the complexion.

• Indoor tropical plants thrive.

• You don't have to join a gym to use their sauna ... your whole house is a sauna.

• No $600 electric bills.

• Dinner never gets cold.

• Out-of-town relatives and friends never ask to stay at your house during the summer (this is a biggie).

• Cold showers at 3 a.m. can be quite invigorating.

• You don't have to acclimate from indoors to outdoors.

• It's good for the economy since you spend many hours and much money at the mall.

• It's a great topic of conversation at parties.

When I run into someone else who doesn't have air conditioning, there is an instant connection. Someone shares my pain. It's like a Sisterhood of the Sweating Palms.

It doesn't matter why someone doesn't have air conditioning because misery loves company. The stories begin, stories of suffering through the oppressive heat. Each sufferer tries to outdo the other. We remind each other that the heat is really bad for only a couple of weeks so we don't need air conditioning. And maybe it's not the heat but the humidity -- as if a dry, 98-degree day can feel anything other than hot.

With each passing year I get closer to breaking down and air conditioning my house. But just about that time, selective recall kicks in and I think I might be blowing those hot sleepless nights and energy-draining days out of proportion. Of course, heat stroke can make one delusional, too.

Sept. 21 marks the end of summer. Hopefully the worst is over this year and thoughts can migrate toward those frosty, snowy days of winter on their way. Ahhh ... cold icy air. I feel chilly already.

Soon the furnace will kick on to heat up the house.


Joyce Mendelsohn is a photo editor for the Post-Gazette (, 412-263-1951).


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