Saturday, August 18

Hot Time..Summer in the City (II)

WARNING: from the Italian Consumer Reports (2007): Aria condizionata e salute
Raffreddori in piena estate, mal di gola, occhi irritati, torcicollo, a volte gravi infezioni batteriche: l'aria condizionata può causare questi e altri disturbi. Per evitarli, sono sufficienti una regolazione adeguata della temperatura e una manutenzione corretta e costante dell'impianto.
WARNING: AC & Your Health -- Colds in the thick of summer heat, sore throats, stiff necks, grave bacterial infections; all caused by AC. To avoid risk, simply keep the temperature at avg levels & keep your unit properly maintained.

While this summer is a scorcher, it will not go down in history as the infamous one a few years back when even the thermometers were waving white flags. It was the summer that Italians discovered U.S.-style weather reporting: factoring in the heat with humidity temperature, rather than giving us the straight numbers. It was also the year they brought in an American import previously thought to be so insidious that only the most obscene even had them in their automobiles (but not in their homes or offices): air-conditioning.

Yes, that was the summer in which Italians – in a sort of mass brainwashing – collectively overcame their primordial Fear of the Air Conditioner – all 60 million of them. 2.1M units were sold that summer compared to 950,000 just 3 years previously.

Up to then, Italians would exchange their war stories of having visited the U.S. in the summer and been met with the ‘cold showers’ one gets when leaving the sidewalk and entering a sub-degree store in New York City. And how, each one of them got every sort of illness because of our overuse of the A.C. And even worse, how it then lead to sore throats, then bronchitis, and God-knows-what other viruses that were lurking in the AC ducts of their hotels, just waiting for attack.

Before that summer, you’d be surprised to find how “broken” ACs in taxi cabs were at epidemic proportions. Even in the spanking new ones. If you managed to find one "working", the driver would keep the windows cracked just to be sure the air never was too too cold. Clearly, they were being driven more by their fear of the AC itself over their fear of gas consumption. But not that summer.
Suddenly, air conditioning units were sold out throughout the entire peninsula; fans could not be found from Sicily to Brussels; brownouts were rife. And, funny thing, no one got sick from their AC blowing like the wind. The articles condemning the use of cold air disappeared from the front pages of newspapers.

In fact, the only ones to die that summer were the ones who did not have the luxury of that purely American symbol of largess. They were the fallen heroes of the last battalions of a battle raging since the '50s: a battle for the very soul of the 'Sunshine State'.

No comments: