NYC Reality: Attempting a summer without air conditioning after 10 years

It’s 92F outside now. Google weather tells me that it feels like 95F due to humidity. I’m sitting here by the window in my East Village nano-studio and still feeling good about my decision of not installing an air conditioner this summer.

I will come to “why” I chose to do so later. But first, let me explain how this is possible even with global warming and living within a dominant culture of “air conditioning is my life”! The funny part is that ultimately it comes down to strategic changes in our 3 basic needs: food, clothes and shelter.

Food: I’m omnivorous. Well, that’s a lie. I have some sort of allergy to certain preparations of eggplant. I also cannot stand the taste of raw fish in my mouth. But, to live comfortably during lower Manhattan’s summer, I chose to become vegetarian from the fourth week of June to the third week of September. In general, I’ve observed that my body generates a lot more heat when I eat non-vegetarian food. As I’m a lentils-lover through and through, I think I can survive as a vegetarian for 3 months.

Clothes: New York City is all about black skinny jeans and fancy boots. Well, not if I chose to live without air conditioning! So, bye bye skinny jeans and hello harem pants. Growing up in hot and humid climate of Kolkata, I already had a couple of t-shirts with breathable fabric! To add to that, I bought some pants from Thailand that were worn by the fishermen there. Here in US, you can call them yoga pants or harem pants. But, the point is wearing these pants, you can sit anyway you want without looking indecent! You won’t believe how many times I have to remind my shorts-wearing Californian friends to cross their legs!

Shelter: High rise with glass walls with plenty of sunlight? Sorry, you must install an air conditioner! Not in my case! This East Village building is approximately 150 years old. So, they have thick, brick walls. I’m on the third floor of this 5 storied building without direct sunlight during the summer as my apartment faces the courtyard. Another plus is that I can keep my window open without the smell of the garbage that the apartments facing the streets deals with during the summer!

Now coming to “why” I chose not to install an air conditioner.

The first part of it is nostalgia. Living in the US for past decade, I never felt so close to the Bengali culture like I feel in New York! Let it be the passer by talking over the phone in Bengali on the streets, the fantastic food of Murray Hill in Manhattan, Jackson Heights in Queens and even Hicksville in the Long Island, I feel at home! And a large part of “feeling at home” is a hot and humid summer! I think I want to embrace that again.

The second part is the practical aspect. I live in a rented, nano-studio with one big window opening towards the fire escape. As the “StreetEasy” ads say, in New York City, the fire escape becomes your second living room during the summer! In this tiny outdoor area, I’m trying to grow herbs like Basil and Oregano, for my insalata caprese  and pesto alla genovese. If I install the air conditioner on the window, my access to this “balcony” will be closed.

In summary, this may sound like a huge deal after living in a centrally air-conditioned apartment for almost 10 years in Dallas! But, for now, cheers to my attempt, with a glass of chilled Rosè!

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