July 19, 2013

News & Features

Some tips for surviving this hot summer without air conditioning

New York Times News Service



AUSTIN, Texas — My stiflingly hot hell on wheels started in the summer of 2011. The air conditioning in my 14-year-old Saturn was dead. It was too expensive to fix. So I decided to suffer the consequences.

And suffer I did. Ever sit at a traffic light in 108 degrees? Zip down the highway as broiler heat slaps your face? Stick a dry napkin on your forehead to stop the sweat from stinging your eyes?

Yeah, it's gross. But, as it turns out, not unbearable. This is my third summer without cool car air, and I am surviving.

Others are having a tougher time with that. One friend whose air conditioning recently died says, "I tell my kids to enjoy the breeze and then see them in the back like three sweaty fish gasping for air."

My friends, a few of Austin's hottest drivers, are here to help. Josh Rabinowitz, the 28-year-old founder of a medical-device company, has been living without air conditioning since 2002 when he bought his beloved Suzuki Sidekick. Paul Freehill, 23, a community-outreach specialist at Ascend Center for Learning, lost the AC in his Toyota Camry in mid-May.

Our combined 13-plus years of experience makes us qualified to provide the following tips to surviving the summer heat.

• Roll your windows down. What? They're broken? Start walking.

• Bring something cold to drink. A frosty mug of beer is a bad idea, but that's between you and the police.

• Grab your Olivia Newton-John sweatband, short shorts and old tee. Pack a bag with your work clothes and freshen up at the office, preferably not at your desk.

• Skip the pantyhose and girdles. Numerous peer-reviewed studies show these fashion choices increase heat-induced misery by 67 percent.

• Speaking of fashion choices, outfit your vehicle with a sun shade. All the cool cars are wearing them.

• Tame the long hair. Forgot your ponytail holder? Paper clips, rubber bands or binder clips will do in a pinch. Masking tape is unwise.

A few other ideas: Skip the highway and drive on shady roads; bring a cooling towel for your neck or head; and schedule your appointments for the morning.

"It's not that bad when you get used to it," Freehill says.

And now, a word about road rage. Bad drivers plus scorching heat equals instant temper tantrum. That buffoon who cut you off suddenly seems like a menace who must be stalked and destroyed. Don't do it. You'll just sweat more.

There's no denying the beauty of a cool car. But when it's gone, a good attitude makes for a more bearable drive. Think of it as a tribute to desert animals or the Earth's core. Think of it as preparing for the zombie apocalypse.

Or just get your AC fixed. That's probably best.


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