Wednesday, August 19, 2009

HOT Virginia

Virginia in August is like stepping into a steam room. With 95% humidity or above being common and a blazing sun shining regularly, the water molecules themselves heat up. They cling, a slick coating over your skin. Sweat drips from your body if you spend even a few minutes out of doors—say—in walking to your car.

My way of surviving such heat is to minimize all time spent outside. Of necessity, I walk from my air-conditioned house to my air-conditioned car, then from my air-conditioned car to my air-conditioned office. This would be a perfect system if my office wouldn’t keep changing temperatures.

I work in a rambling building that had rooms added out of necessity as the family-owned company grew through generations. Thinking more of useable space, and less of aesthetics or climate control, additions were tacked-on as needed. The problem with tacking things on is you end up with some interesting heat/cooling situations. For instance, I share a thermostat with my boss’s office which is located directly over-head.

He and I both have rooms with a lovely window view overlooking the south side of the building. I look out over the trash cans, he looks out onto the roof of the Annex, but they do let in that well-loved natural light and, by consequence, the broiling summer heat.

It is a well-known scientific fact that heat accumulates in higher elevations. When my boss’s office gets unbearably hot, he comes downstairs to where the thermostat is located and adjusts the air. He doesn’t do this often, just when things get overly toasty in the rooms above. The problem is, in order for it to be bearable upstairs, it has to be near artic conditions down here, effectively freezing the basement dwellers. The only way to balance it out is to open the back door and let all that natural heat wash in.

All in all, this wouldn’t be a bad system except for two things. First, due to the private nature of what I do, I often have my office door shut. This keeps private conversations private, but also allows for window-heated air to accumulate in my room. To solve this problem, I occasionally open the door and skim some cool air from the hallway or the office next door. This leads to the second problem. If my office is hot from the south-heating sun, you can bet the upstairs office is hotter. By the time I open my door, the whole cycle has started and finished; the boss has become too hot, the thermostat has been lowered, my co-workers teeth have started chattering and they have thrown open the back door. When I finally get around to opening my door, hoping for relief from my baking office, the sweltering, clinging, moisture-thick outside heat comes pouring in!

It makes me wonder, why, exactly do I live in Virginia?


Dedalus1947 said...

Ah Air Conditioning! It is a two-edged sword. I love it, and hate it. More so as I get older. Why didn't the heat bother us as kids?

kathryn said...

I share your pain and weather. A New Englander, I never knew it could get so hot, so steamy--like living on the edge of a volcano is how I usually describe Philadelphia summers. But not this year! We have experienced luscious cool weather, low humidity, and only a week so far of unbearable humidity. This happened last week when, like some avenging god, the blast furnace got turned on outside. We shut ourselves up in our house terrarium-style and there we sat for an entire week (snacks and detritus piling up all around us) monitoring the air conditioning 24/7. Not enough AC, too much AC, my hands are frozen AC, why isn't the AC working....It made us grumpy.

Now the cool air is back, windows open, and we are happy again, all excited about heading down the shore for the weekend and then up to New England for vacation. I checked the five-day forecast. Cool and rainy. Ah well, at least we won't need the A/C.

White Eagle said...

Thanks Lakshmi,

We spent the last week in florida.Hot hot HOT and sticky. With torrential rain.

Landing again in San Francisco was gloriously like stepping back in to the refridgerator I love.

Then, 91 degrees today (but it's a DRY HEAT!)

But there is no better climate anywhere I've ever travelled than the Bay Area.

Nice piece.



lakshmi said...

Air Conditioning--can't live with it, can't live without it—or something.

Ours was dead for a little while earlier this summer and, from that, I conclusively say, I LOVE AC! It's chilled out a little bit here lately, and really, it hasn't been a bad summer but, when it gets so hot, the air is like a physical barrier; it even seems to inhibit coherent thought!

I believe I am a Northern Girl at heart who somehow got herself stuck in the south. There is no help for it but to deal. I know you're off to the North on vacation, Kathryn! Oh, how I envy you. Have a blissful and blessedly cool time.

I have also always thought CA must have the perfect weather, John. Somehow, hot, dry air is so much more bearable! Plus, from what you’ve said—it just sounds lovely. Sit in the garden for me and breathe that easy air. I shall live vicariously.