One of the good things of living in Washington is that we have a very long autumn, a comparatively mild winter with rarely any snow, and plenty of sunshine most of the year. Unfortunately, as anyone who has spent any time here in the warmer months, our summers are absolutely awful. This weekend we had a preview of that coming attraction, albeit with less humidity than our full-blown onslaught of stickiness that will be coming all too soon. Nevertheless, I could not take the heat any more and so yesterday evening I gave in and turned on the central air conditioning.
My father and I have often discussed the thought that Willis Carrier, the man who invented air conditioning, if not a saint in heaven, certainly must have had his purgatory time reduced as a result of all the people he was able to help through his invention. Think of the people in hospitals, for example, and how their suffering is at least tempered by the absence of heat and humidity in the dog days of August. Life in cities such as this one has become far more bearable as well. I cannot even begin to imagine the discomfort back in the days of wool frock coats, cravats and top hats, hoop-skirts, crinolines and floor-length gowns weighing 10 or 20 pounds or more. No wonder foreign diplomats used to receive hazard pay for living here.
When I lived in London, I can remember waking up one morning in late July, turning on the radio, and waiting for the weather forecast. The news reader announced that a “heat wave” would be hitting central London, and that temperatures that day could reach…80 degrees. Anyone who has lived in D.C. would find that a godsend in July.