Every season came with surprises when my father was involved. As a dad, he could do all sorts of things you would expect a dad to do – he could build furniture, fix cars, explain what BTUs were, and hunt – all of which, I can’t. On top of all that, he had a doctorate in Physiology, so there were all sorts of random questions that he somehow knew the answers to... and how to stay comfortable no matter what the temperature was, was one of them.
In the dead of winter, on the coldest days, my father had a rectangular piece of slate about two inches thick, as foot wide, and three feet long. What it was from, I have not idea, but my father’s basement is filled with all manner of things – wood scraps and wiring, tools, glues oils and greases, and every spare part for every thing any of us ever owned... so it could have been from just about anything. He would put it in front of our fireplace and let it heat up, and then with a pair of work gloves he would carry it upstairs and tuck it under our covers, one bed at a time. When each bed was warm, we would scurry under the covers – and if you could manage to squeeze yourself into a small rectangular shape – you would be completely toasty warm. Awesome.
Unfortunately, he also had a plan for the summer. I’ll lay out his theory for you... If the cool air is outside, you have to get it inside, obviously, I’m down with that. Fools (he thought) let all the fans in the house blow inward. I know, I know, I am thinking the same thing you are... don’t you want the outside air in? You do, but here was his plan. Apparently, if you let all of the fans blow inward, you aren’t really letting the cool night air inside... what you’re feeling is all an illusion... because you can only have so much air in a house at one time. What you should do, according to my father, is have one fan blowing in, and at the opposite end of the house, have one fan blowing out. That way, instead of inflating the house to the point where it might violently explode and send a shower of mustard yellow siding shards all over the neighborhood, there was a small jet stream localized on the second floor of our house. In theory, it sounds like it might work, right? Sure it does. Until you are the youngest person in the house and are outvoted by your older and wiser sisters and you have to be the ass with the ‘out’ fan in your room. Don’t think I didn’t protest, either, especially after spending a night drowning in sweat in what seemed like a convection oven. But my father, completely enamored with his airflow plan, refused to budge. “Just you wait”, he would insist, “in a few hours the whole house will be cool as a cucumber.” Unfortunately, his idea of ‘a few hours’ was actually the hours that remained between whatever day it was, and October, when the house would magically become cool again.
I’d like to think that the experience made me a tougher person. At the very least, I have some ammunition when I’m arguing with the kids. “You know, when I was young my fans only blew out. I didn’t have any of the fancy ‘wind’ or ‘coolness’ that you two have, I had to sleep in a pool of my own salty warm sweat, and I was happy to have it.” On the flipside, we’re edging towards spoiled over here. The kids don’t have air conditioning in their rooms, and they always ask to sleep in the guest room in the summer. Which they can’t. If it’s ungodly hot, we’ll set up the bed and let them sleep there – but they have fans, windows, and sweat glands – so they’ll be fine. It’s a battle though, because Sara becomes too cold at around 68 degrees, and too hot at 71 degrees… so she is convinced that the kids will die if left exposed to the outside air, and has been know to feel the kids while they are sleeping to see what their temperature is. Which is always hot enough to give me a sad puppy dog look, so that I’ll feel guilty enough to install central air before they die in their sleep. Luckily, she’s worn out the look, and I’m completely unaffected.
I still think about those summers when I was a kid though, and might just start blowing the fans outward… that’ll teach ‘em…