Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Summer Ritual

I work in an office building. I am very thankful that I live in the age of climate control and air conditioning, but the building I work in takes conditioning air to an extreme. Simply put, it is freezing. I go to work in the summer dressed in my cute, little, short-sleeved, summer tops and then sit at my desk and work with my fleece jacket on. Yes, a fleece. I keep it at my desk to keep my arms from turning into blocks of ice. I leave it at my desk when I go to meetings or go speak with another co-worker since it's not the most attractive garment, but in general, I spend my day straddling the line between having goosebumps and not. On the bright side, it leads me to a summer ritual that I enjoy each evening.

By the end of each work day, I have usually grown accustomed to the fact that I am just cold. I almost don't even notice any more. So when I open the door and step outside, the warmth is instantly relaxing, like a physical reminder that the work is done for the day. I open my car, toss in my laptop and purse and then get in myself. It is that first moment in my car that I revel in. Sitting in the sun all day, my car is filled with warm, dry air that most people hurry to vacate with open windows and high-powered A/C. I prefer the opposite approach. My skin is still cold from eight hours in a virtual ice box and the warmth of the air is penetrating. The difference in temperature is so stark it's as though the heat is practically hugging me.

With the warmth all around me, I start my car and drive away. I feel as though I could drive for hours in the toasted air inside my car. And I do drive with windows up and no A/C. I do not last hours. Somewhere around fifteen minutes, it is as though a switch is flipped inside me and I go from enjoying the feeling of my skin soaking up the warmth around me to instantly feeling as though I'm being suffocated by the oppressive heat. I suddenly need to cool the inside of my car. But after a full day in artificially cooled air, my car's A/C is not an option. I am headed home to my husband and children and no longer have a need for perfectly coiffed hair. I roll down my windows as I drive 55 mph down the highway. I breathe in the summer air as it whirls all around, whipping this way and that the few strands of hair that are too short for the quick pony tail I just threw my hair into. I turn on the radio and hope for some good summer driving music. Life is good.

Ten minutes later, those frolicking locks have gotten the better of me. What were symbols of summer carelessness just moments earlier are already transformed into just another annoyance in my daily commute: little wisps of hair that can't seem to stay out of my eyes and stop whipping into face as I attempt to navigate my way home.

And so, less than thirty minutes into my sixty minute commute home, the windows go up and the air conditioning goes on. I spend the last half hour in a closed car, listening to NPR. You could view it as a failure. Every day I escape into summer's reckless abandon, only to succumb to the predictable evenness of modern-day climate-controlled convenience. But I don't think of it that way. Because tomorrow, I will escape again... if only for a half an hour.