Sunday, July 11, 2010

Blow ye winds, ye fans, and ye air conditioners

by Mary Margret Daughtridge


As I write this, my mind stumbles and lurches, bashing its toes against bumpy thoughts.

After days of heat so intense you feel your skin sizzle as soon as you step outside, and day after day the sky looks like hammered steel, last night it finally rained.

Today we are restored. The sky this evening is china blue. Long gold stripes of sunlight alternate with deep blue-green shadows across the lawns in nostalgic evocation of the perfect long summer evening.

The huge pots of salmon and blood red impatiens have recovered from the pale cringing of heat exhaustion. They sing out scintillating color in the deepening twilight.

I’m tempted to eat supper out on the patio. Mistake. Not-horribly-hot does not mean cool or even pleasantly warm. In less than forty-five seconds I have picked up my plate from the black wrought iron table and returned to the shelter of air-conditioning.

When I was a kid, the only places that had central air conditioning were department stores and rich people’s houses. I lived in neither. We had window fans, floor fans, attic fans, circulating fans. At church, we had paper fans on sticks, printed with pious scenes in idyllic colors on one side and funeral home advertising on the other. They were effective only on the face. Sweat pooled underneath your legs. Then they stuck to the slick polished walnut pews and made rude sucking sounds if you squirmed.

The very best fans were the lazy black ceiling fans that twirled the thick Coke-syrup scented air in the drug store. The sensory impression wasn’t coolth, precisely, but something sensual and rich, substantial and deeply pleasuring.

I heard a commercial the other day for a new-fangled fan. It explained that the problem with the old-fangled fans was that they had blades, and the blades chopped the air (I am not kidding—that’s what it said!) and worst of all, chopped air made buffets. Yes, buffet, that was the word.

Frankly, I can’t imagine what air from this new contraption feels like. With nothing chopping the air into manageable pieces, I imagine it makes something like those “straight-line winds”—you know, that blow like hell for about three minutes and down hundred-year-old trees and the weather service swears is not a tornado.

Can you imagine air that just pushes at you, absolutely steady without the tiniest deviation or let up? Me, I’ve never noticed that chopping the air does it any harm, and as for buffets—I kind of like them.

I run the ceiling fan in my bedroom winter and summer. Seconds after I turn it on the air stirs steadily without the feeling of being blown upon, and yet there are the odd little pats of wind, soft clumps of atmosphere to playfully bat at you, random yet predictable. Buffets.

My dictionary says buffet (second meaning) verb: strike violently. My fan does baby buffets.

Maybe whatever is responsible for keeping my thoughts stirred today is chopping them—instead of moving them in a straight line—and producing buffets.

10 comments:

  1. My fan is buffeting me right now. In fact, to pull weeds, I'd considered taking a fan outside with me, to buffet away the mosquitoes that are now plaguing the area. It's way too still out to venture outside. Besides being sizzling hot. So instead, I write, and enjoy my buffeting choppy air. And think of sea breezes and cooler weather to come. Everyone should be so luck, MM! My grandmother said when she was little, they lived in Manitoba and it would get so hot, they'd put wet sheets against the open window and let the breeze blow through to cool down the house.

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  2. A fan's not going to work on the weed-pulling, Terry. Mosquitos are wily creatures, whose element is air. They will just come at you from the lee side.

    I've never put wet sheets on the windows, but I have wet down the brick on the patio, which will produce cooling through evaporation. If there is a fan to buffet things around, that is.

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  3. I honestly can't imagine living in the heat and humidity of some places without AC. OK, actually I can. My sister lived in Lake Havasu, AZ for a time and one of the places she lived in only had a swamp cooler. Better than nothing, true, but a swamp cooler just doesn't work all that well when the temp is in the 120+ range!

    As I have gotten older the heat bothers me more. It never used to and we would keep the AC set quite high and windows open late in the spring to summer. Not now. Now we pay the price for lower AC settings, shut the windows by mid-April, and have buffeting fans galore. And I am still too hot! Hormones, gotta love 'em.

    Thanks for the hand-held fan tip. I think I better invest before heading to MS and FL!

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  4. Sharon, I know what you mean about heat bothering me more now. As I was writing last night, I kept asking myself, "When did I begin to think thoughts like: It's too hot to go outside? When did I begin to run for the air conditioning within seconds of exposure to summer air? Is this the acquired wisdom of age talking--or is it simply age?"

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  5. Buffets are good, and so are your posts, MM! Always a pleasure.

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  6. Oh do you bring me back in time LOL.
    "Sweat pooled underneath your legs. Then they stuck to the slick polished walnut pews and made rude sucking sounds if you squirmed."

    Wonderful post. Such amusing insight on a mundane subject.
    Thanks

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  7. Buffeting is good on a hot, still day, but we get buffeted a bit too much here in Wyoming. There are days here in Cheyenne when the wind blows so hard I can barely open the car door, and risk losing a leg if I don't hang on - and I'm not exaggerating! Plus it's embarrassing when you're trying to walk across a parking lot and you have to tack like a sailboat to get where you're going! If I could bottle wind, I'd send you some!

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  8. Buffeting is good on a hot, still day, but we get buffeted a bit too much here in Wyoming. There are days here in Cheyenne when the wind blows so hard I can barely open the car door, and risk losing a leg if I don't hang on - and I'm not exaggerating! Plus it's embarrassing when you're trying to walk across a parking lot and you have to tack like a sailboat to get where you're going! If I could bottle wind, I'd send you some!

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  9. I'm being buffeted right now and loving it. I went to Longwood Gardens with Twinkle toes, her friend from dance camp, a lovely girl from Toronto, my youngest daughter and my husband. Even though it's cooled down from 105 degrees last week, a high of 90 in full sun is still too damn hot. Now I'm working on my laptop, sitting on my bed beneath a ceiling fan since my office has been hijacked for a Harry Potter Marathon and my family is being used by the dancers for Guitar Hero/The Beatles Version...

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  10. I saw that new-fangled-fan commerical the other day and wondered how it worked. What it would feel like. If you could even sense the wind current. I was almost suckered into buying one just so I could check it out. I'm still intrigued, but I have no use for one, so I won't waste my money.

    This weekend at RomCon in Denver, my hotel room's air conditioner wasn't working. The fan would blow, but no cold air would come out. It wasn't that hot in the room, maybe 78, and I kept telling myself it wasn't so bad. I lasted the first night, but the next day it was in the 90s outside, so I went to talk to the front desk. Apparently, they KNEW the air conditioner in that room didn't work. So why did they put me in there? Anyway, I was moved to a different room that had well-functioning air conditioning and a lovely view of the 1st floor lobby. No kidding. I opened my black-out curtain and people were walking up a ramp directly at my window. YIKES! I probably should have stuck with the room that had no air-conditioning and a view of the parking lot. Besides, I froze my patootie off in that air conditioning all last night.

    High maintanence? Who me?

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