raise a frosty glass...

17 July 2002

Let us now take a moment to praise a great man, William Carrier, who one hundred years ago today invented air conditioning. Mr. Carrier, generations of Southerners praise and thank you.

One small nitpick with the article, because it's me and I have to:

In 1960, 12 percent of the nation's homes were air-conditioned; now, 80 percent are -- and 96 percent in the South, where new, tightly sealed houses were built with smaller windows and without the traditional porches where generations had socialized and enjoyed the night air.

I think they meant to say, "... where generations escaped the oppressive, oven-like heat of the house and prayed desperately for a breeze to sweep over the porch and put them out of their misery." My mom and dad both grew up picking cotton in Mississippi. They have no romantic notions about that time. "How did you survive without air conditioning?" we would ask them. They didn't say, "Oh, we just sat out and waved to folks on the porch while drinking mint juleps! No problem!" They said, "We drowned in our own sweat and prayed for winter to hurry up and get here."

General Electric had a more devastating effect than General Sherman on the South's character, wrote historian Raymond O. Arsenault.

Ever wonder why Southern literature is laden with dark, Gothic themes? Why do all good Southern novels end with someone going psycho and killing folks in strange ways? Because the heat and humidity makes people slightly crazy. Yes indeed. All Southerners are insane; it's in their genes. It's from years of 103 degree days with 98% humidity and no wind. Mark my words, y'all. These days in the South, only Yankees and very VERY poor people do not have air conditioning. The rest of us spend our days indoors in the lovely cold, then perhaps at night we'll go sit on the porch with an iced tea, to remind ourselves how damn hot it really is.

If you've never gone mad from constant heat with no relief, thank Mr. Carrier.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to crank up my A/C and put on a coat. Ahhhh.