Monday, May 19, 2008

Feeling the Heat

As citizens of a wealthy, industrialized country, Parisians enjoy above-average levels of comfort and convenience in their daily lives. Bountiful electricity, modern appliances and the latest electronic technologies are all around. But spend a few hot days in this city and you will quickly realize what's missing from their repertoire of 21st century conveniences: air conditioning.

That's right, this staple of American summers very nearly does not exist in Paris. It's not in apartments, it's not in my gym (yuck), and, despite a very large sign proclaiming that it is, it's not on the bus I rode last week. As far as I can tell, it doesn't exist anywhere on the Sciences Po campus. It's not in the library, not in the career center, not in the classroom of my French class that gets the hot afternoon sun, and it's certainly not in the crowded computer lab located at the top of a very long, tiring flight of stairs. I haven't noticed it in boutiques or restaurants, although you sometimes see signs on stores that advertise the fact that their establishment is air conditioned as if this was some newfangled contraption whose novelty could attract the masses.

Now, I've never been a huge fan of air-conditioning. I'm almost always cold, so I love the long, hot days of summer. It seems like such a shame to wait all winter long for warm temperatures only to have them blasted away by central air run amok. Not to mention the energy that is wasted by cooling everything down to the freezing point. But a reasonable amount of fresh air at critical moments of the day would be nice. I mean, transforming complex sentences and conjugating the subjunctive form of the verb in French is all good and well, but when the room is a roasting 90 degrees Fahrenheit it becomes a little trickier. Or when you're getting ready to go out (ladies, I know you understand me here) or when you're cooking a hot meal or trying on clothes at a store; these are times when you just would like a little climate control in your life. Scoff if you will, but trust me, one sweaty ride on the line 1 from Concorde to La Defense and you'll be begging for the max cool setting.

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