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Life without air-con

Thursday, 25 July, 2013

On Sunday, in Munich, the temperature is predicted to reach 38C, and it might even touch 40C. Because Germans regard air-conditioning as “American” and, therefore, depraved, unnecessary suffering will be widespread; especially hard hit will be helpless patients in many of the city’s clinics and hospitals.

There was a time, however, on the other side of the Atlantic when air-conditioning was unknown and Arthur Miller captured the hardship of summer in Manhattan beautifully in “Before air-conditioning,” which was first published in the New Yorker in June 1998. Snippet:

“People on West 110th Street, where I lived, were a little too bourgeois to sit out on their fire escapes, but around the corner on 111th and farther uptown mattresses were put out as night fell, and whole families lay on those iron balconies in their underwear.

Even through the nights, the pall of heat never broke. With a couple of other kids, I would go across 110th to the Park and walk among the hundreds of people, singles and families, who slept on the grass, next to their big alarm clocks, which set up a mild cacophony of the seconds passing, one clock’s ticks syncopating with another’s.”

On the other hand, the Bavarians might be justified in their rejection of air conditioning because as Garrison Keillor once noted: “It was luxuries like air conditioning that brought down the Roman Empire. With air conditioning their windows were shut, they couldn’t hear the barbarians coming.”

Munich weather


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