In the Cold Clutches of Climate Control

One Sunday morning just before the start of summer, I was at Mass when I heard of an unusual second collection. It was for repair of the air conditioner. Never have I felt so blessed in not giving.

After Mass, I told the priest, a pleasant, earnest young man, that I considered it the lamest reason for second collection I had ever heard. He gently reminded me that I had never been in his church on a hot summer day. The building is not insulated, he explained, and when the sun beats down on the roof it can be hotter than … well, the good pastor didn’t say.

Okay, before I lose my shade in purgatory, I’ll admit there are some days when air conditioning is a godsend. But those days are relatively few in New Hampshire. In Florida, where 100-degree days are common, people understandably take refuge in air-conditioned homes, cars, offices or stores. (People with tans are easily identified as tourists.) But New Hampshire is a much cooler place, in more ways than one.

Judging from the reactions I get from folks in my native Connecticut, New Hampshire is notorious for its cold. (It’s not that much colder than Connecticut, but folks down there think it is.) “Do you really like living in one of the coldest places in the country?” writes a high school classmate who now lives in Mexico. “How many winter coats do you own?” By the end of June, I could hardly wait to tell my friend below the border that spring had finally come to New Hampshire, the weather was quite lovely, and I hadn’t worn a winter coat in weeks.

Yes, the winters are long here, as even the natives will admit. Indeed, some are proud of it, believing that the length and severity of our winters are the test of character and fortitude we are privileged to pass each year. But by March, nearly everyone agrees it has been winter long enough. We can’t wait until it’s over. Yet in New Hampshire winter never really ends. It just moves indoors.

Because when spring finally arrives and the temperatures outside make the earth feel, at last, user friendly, just step inside, folks! Someone’s air conditioner (or two — or three or four or more) will take you back to the dear dead days of frost and chill. Some states have laws requiring the recycling of cans and bottles. In New Hampshire, we have the custom of recycling January.

For the life of me, I have never understood why, when it is, say, 70 degrees and breezy outside, people running a restaurant will keep it no more than 50 degrees inside, for year-round air-conditioned discomfort. Most people are blissfully unaware of the mild outdoor temperatures, because they travel to their air-conditioned restaurants from their air-conditioned homes or offices in their air-conditioned cars. Their climate-controlled bodies may never again have to endure the shock of a warm spring or summer evening.

It gets worse as summer progresses. An awful lot of people seem to think the only alternative to 80 above is 20 below. I have yet to attend an event at the Center of New Hampshire in Manchester when the indoor temperature has not been more conducive to dogsleds than dinner parties. When I ask others about it, they invariably agree: “Oh, it’s freezing!” Yet as far as I can tell, no one complains about it — except me.

“I think it’s going to snow,” I once informed a young lady at the lobby desk, who seemed not to take my warning seriously. “Inside the armory!” I explained. It was the middle of May.

I am aware, of course, of my own sinfulness, but one of the things from which I seek refuge in church on a Sunday morning is the merciless year-around cold perpetuated by those I regard, not too fondly, as the Iceheads of New Hampshire. So if I ever hear of another collection for a poor, starving air conditioner in a church basement in New Hampshire, I will once again let it go by.

It leaves me cold.