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The Heat Is On!

by Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
Itís summer and it is hot and we are using our air conditioner. In the winter we use the furnace. And every year, summer and winter, we fight the same old battles over what temperature is the right temperature and over who is and who is not old enough and wise enough to be allowed to change the thermostat.

The problem is that my husband and I both work full time and we are not always at home when the kids are home. The other problem we have is that we like to have six or eight hours of sleep during the night. The kids like to have ten to twelve hours of sleep, but they like to take them from 2:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. That means that there are late night hours when we are asleep and they are up. While they are up they seem to have some difficulty with their thermoregulation. I suspect it has more to do with the swamp of hormones they are wading through currently than it does with the actual temperature in the house.

If it is summer they are hot. If they are hot and it is the middle of the night and they are sure that we will not be getting up, they turn the thermostat down to cool things off a little. I am quite sure that they think they will reset the thermostat to the proper temperature before they go to bed and that we will never be the wiser. But, these are fellows who are not able to maintain the level of concentration it takes to remember that dirty dishes are supposed to go in the dishwasher, not the laundry hamper. They also think that if the thermostat is set at 80 degrees and they are hot, they will feel much better if the thermostat is set at 68 degrees.

Do not assume from this that 68 degrees is the temperature at which they are the most comfortable. If it is winter and it is 68 degrees in the house they think that they can only be comfortable if the thermostat is set at 80. They are, when it comes to their own comfort, strictly black and white in their perspective. They are either starving or stuffed, nearly comatose with boredom or bouncing off the walls, ecstatic and devastated, freezing or broiling. There are no gray areas in their experience. Gray complacency is for old folks, I guess.

We have come downstairs several times this summer already to find the inside of the windows covered with condensation and the place so chilly you can almost see your breath. This makes my husband absolutely furious. He feels about it the way that I feel about the state of the bathrooms. He has lectured, reprimanded, punished, reasoned until he has reached his witís end. Now he has taken to leaving notes taped to the thermostat.

The first one was calm and reasonable. It went, "If you are too hot change your clothes, take a shower, find something to take your mind off of it, but do not touch this thermostat." You would think that the boys were old enough to understand this and respectful enough to abide by it. And they insist that they were. I probably got up in the middle of the night a few days later, walking in my sleep the way I do, and turned the thermostat down. In any event, Mike found it turned way down again and was prompted to write another note. "We pay more on electric bills than some small countries have for their gross national product. If you want us to continue to be able to afford to buy you food, do not touch this thermostat."

They say a word to the wise is sufficient. Obviously teenaged boys are not wise. We came downstairs a few days later to find it chilly enough that a thin white frost covered every flat surface, the cat was curled up in a ball shivering, our houseplants were wilting, and there were tiny little icicles growing off the light fixtures. This situation obviously required firm, decisive action. "The next time I find this thermostat tampered with I will rip the fuses out and feed them to you. I mean it."

And I think that he does mean it. I think that he is completely fed up and would gladly make his point by pulling the fuses and letting us all find out how cool 80 degrees can feel in Oklahoma in July and August. I pulled the boys aside and told them this. I told them that Daddy was very, very upset and he was not playing around and they are absolutely forbidden to touch the thermostat ever again. They nodded, their eyes wide and serious.

Then I asked them if they had seen the note I left in the bathroom. Cuz they know how I feel about the bathroom. And being cold makes me cranky. I think they got my point.

© Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
"The Girl Detective's Theory of Everything"
August 15, 2007 Column

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