Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Unemployment is better with air-conditioning

Last summer when I was unemployed in this apartment, I didn't know that I could have signed up for unemployment, and so didn't. And so did not spend ANY extra money whatsoever while looking for work. That meant: Not buying a window-unit AC. A huge mistake. July/August/September are obnoxiously humid in Jersey. Not quite as bad as Texas, but bad. (Only one or two 100-degree days up here, as opposed to Texas, but still...PLENTY of 85-plus humid days, which are almost as nasty.) So, with no AC, I used the oppressive heat as an excuse to lie around all day on the couch like a slug, inwardly whining, "It's too hot to put on clothes and go find a job!" And, for real, while putting on long pants wasn't really a huge problem, blow-drying my hair actually WAS, as silly as that sounds. The heat from the dryer, in my hot apartment, would immediately wilt my hair. And then cause me to sweat so much that the makeup I'd be trying to apply for job interviews wouldn't stay on! So I looked like shit, and then got depressed and had to go lie down on the couch again!;p

As I wrote on this blog in early July, this year I figured out how to get unemployment checks, and so I immediately bought a cheap $100 AC on sale before it got too hot. ("This year, I'm doing things differently!") Well, even after my nice landlord (who lives downstairs) surprised me by carrying the too-heavy-for-me-to-lift thing upstairs for me after I'd let it sit at the foot of the stairs in the shopping cart for a while, I then just let the box sit outside my door for the past 2 or 3 weeks. I had written him a note expressing great thanks for his kindness. And his wife had replied something along the lines of, "Just let us know when we can install it." Maybe I felt guilty because it was beyond me how to install a window AC, even though I should be an independent woman. Maybe I didn't want to bother them any more than I felt I already had. I also think I felt like they probably thought I was a weirdo---since being unemployed 2 months ago (except random work one or two days a week), I've hardly gone anywhere. To buy groceries every couple of weeks when I ran out of toilet paper. Maybe out briefly at 9 or 10pm before the convenience store closed to buy beer. So I was paranoid: "They think I'm a weird freak who never leaves the house! They hate me! They don't want me here!" (Note: These kind people had already voluntarily asked if I needed a ride to the airport at Christmas, and took me there. Why was I doubting them??)

Well, today, the downstairs buzzer rang at 8:30am. Though I hadn't washed my hair in 2 days and looked like shit, I was halfway hoping for a package, so I threw on a pair of unwashed shorts (too hot to do laundry) and started to rush downstairs. My landlord was already there at the door. Just the meter-man to let in. With the brief adrenalin rush, I suddenly felt talky: "Hi, A. How's it going?" My landlord responded perfectly pleasantly, so I got up the courage to ask for my favor: "C. [his wife] said you might be able to install my air conditioner for me. I wasn't going to ask, since the weather hasn't been that bad, but this week it's been so hot and humid..." A.: "Sure thing. Just give me a minute." Me: "Oh, no rush. Whenever you have the time."

Ten minutes later, he was upstairs with his tools! We chatted pleasantly about the weather, about where they had their window units placed downstairs, about how he was wondering how I managed to stand the heat without AC, etc. A half-hour later, all done! He apparently doesn't think I'm a weird freak after all! :)

And lemme tell ya: Lying around on the couch today was a LOT better with the AC! :) Though... now I can't use "no AC" as an excuse for lying around on the couch any more!

This reminds me of the house I lived in for 6 years in Austin right before moving up here. It was an older house, built in the 1930s or so, with 4 rooms (plus kitchen and bath). And all it had were 2 window AC units, no central air. One unit, serving the dining/living room areas was pretty strong and cooled those areas sufficiently. But the AC in the study, where I spent a lot of time on the computer, was very weak. The backs of my knees would literally sweat as I sat there, and I'd have to turn off my desk damp because even the heat from that one bulb felt oppressive. And there was NO AC in the bedroom, and no air ever reached the bathroom, so again, the blow-drying/makeup/getting dressed problem. Finally, after living there for 4 years, I got up the nerve to ask my landlord, who had always been nothing but nice, if I could possibly have a window unit added in the bedroom... His reply? "Why don't I just go ahead and add central air?" Um...OK!! And he didn't even raise the rent!

All this should be a lesson to me: Ask and ye shall receive--when the person is kind! I think I'd had it drilled into my head as a kid that I was "spoiled" and, later, as a woman by lovers, that I was "needy." I never got very much from either parents or lovers, but...I believed them! Those fuckers all brainwashed me into thinking I wasn't deserving of anything, that I was a whiner for asking...even asking for fucking air-conditioning!! :) (For some reason, AC has always been a big issue in my life. I will never forget living in the sweltering Dallas/Fort Worth summers as a kid. My mom would get home from work at 4:30pm. Her rule for turning on the AC earlier in the day: If the thermostat hit 86 INSIDE the house, THEN I could turn it on. If it hadn't hit 86 yet, I could still turn it on at 3pm. So SHE was nice and cool by the time she got home! And when she went to bed at 10pm, the AC was shut off. So SHE was still cool when she went to sleep. I, having no school, would stay up 'til 1am or 2am...while the house got hotter and hotter, and the backs of my knees sweatier and sweatier. It was awful.)

So, long story short: A big THANKS, two landlords, for helping to break the awful "not receiving" spell! :)

p.s. Just thinking about temperatures in general: It's said that people often feel depressed during long, gray winter months. NOT ME. The NYC/Jersey area, where I've spent my past 3 winters, has radiators. And the steam heat is both very warm and cheap (usually the building pays for it; I've never had to pay a heating bill up here). Plus, these buildings up here are appropriately insulated. That last house I rented in Austin, despite central heat, was drafty and cold as hell, and the gas heating bills each month astronomical ($200-$300, for being cold!). So, if the home is insulated properly, I wouldn't care if I spent 5 months a year with snow outside. It's invigorating to me to get out of bed in the morning and bundle up to go outside! Just as the crisp fall is invigorating. Whereas nearly 5 months of 85-100 degree temperatures, as in Texas (June through October), is horribly, wiltingly depressing to me.

It's been interesting living for the past nearly-3 years in a different, Northern clime. I've learned: I very much like seasonal variations, especially the fall and winter, but everything only up to 80 degrees. Above 80 = NASTY. HATE. CAN DO COMPLETELY WITHOUT. (Perhaps it is my German genes. Can't explain it otherwise, since I've, 'til now, lived all of my life in Texas and should have been acclimated by age 41, when I left.) My nightmare locations, though I haven't lived there: LA and Miami, where it's primarily always 80. And San Fran, where I have lived, where it's continuously primarily 55-65. (SF is the only place where I've craved more, more, more of the sun.)

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