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Shannon Casas: Why I'm standing on the sidewalk sunning myself like a lizard
Shannon Casas high res
Shannon Casas

Some of the hottest days I recall as a child were spent at Six Flags theme park or some sporting event. I remember we’d carry misters — little spray bottles full of water with a small motorized fan attached. You’d spray it on your face and pretend your felt a little bit cooler. But it was summer in Georgia, 100 degrees and air so thick with humidity you could see steam rising from the pavement. 

I used to complain about the heat.

There were plenty of days my mother tried to shoo me outside to play and I complained it was hot. I’m fairly certain she’d send me out the sliding glass door to the backyard anyway.

These days, I only complain about the air conditioning. 

I’m perfectly comfortable with the thermostat set at 78. Perhaps I could even live without the A/C, though my husband may not like that idea. 

In Europe, fewer than 5% use air conditioning, compared with 90% here, according to the Washington Post. That’s apparently changing as the continent is experiencing record high temperatures this summer. 

While Georgia is no stranger to 100-degree temperatures, I can’t imagine how Londoners are handling that heat.

I tried once to explain to an Irish kayak guide what temperatures were like in Georgia in July. 

She knew Celsius and I knew Fahrenheit, so I didn’t quite get my message across while paddling wearing a wetsuit on choppy, cold waters in the height of summer.

Just a few days earlier, we’d witnessed an Irish beach day. It was 75 and sunny, and the people were swimming in the Atlantic, even surfing and eating ice cream. It felt like April to me, and no way was I going in that water without a wetsuit.

This summer has seemed unseasonably cool. This weekend’s temperatures were predicted to be in the mid-80s, quite mild in my opinion.

Maybe I just don’t spend enough time outside anymore to notice the heat of my youth. My shady front porch feels wonderful in the evening, and when I walk out of the office here to grab a bite to eat, the mid-day heat only thaws my over-air-conditioned nose and toes. 

If it’s ever not over air conditioned in my corner of the newsroom — and beginning to even feel a tad warm — everyone knows not to ask me about it. If I’m not still freezing, then I might be comfortable. I’m certainly not asking anyone to lower the temperature.  

Sometimes I’m shivering at my desk when I hear the sports editor turn on his fan.

It seems every place in the South is required to blast the A/C, which means I take sweaters with me everywhere I go. 

Church? Pair a sweater with my outfit. Grocery store? Grab a sweater from the car before walking the chilly aisles. Work? Keep sweater and blanket on hand — heck, wear sweater and blanket 97% of the time.

Sometimes I walk outside and just stand on the sidewalk, sunning myself like a lizard.

I worry I’ll have to move south when I get older. While I can at least feel warm outside in July, each Georgia winter feels as if I’ll never be warm again. 

Perhaps climate change will bring Florida to me, instead. I visited Miami in January, it was in the 70s. Actually, there was a cold snap our last day. The Miami apartment dwellers came down to walk their dogs that morning while wearing furry winter coats. I’m not sure why they owned furry winter coats, but it was 50 and may as well have been 22.

Perhaps if I visited Miami in July, I’d have a new appreciation for air conditioning. But for now, I’m going to go sun myself on the sidewalk before my next meeting in an air-conditioned conference room.

Shannon Casas is editor in chief of The Times and a foster parent. You can hear her most weeks on the Inside The Times podcast on iTunes or Google Play.


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