Home2022-08-05T16:23:22-04:00

Fire and Ice

Why is it that summer creates an insatiable desire for ice?  At home, I can ignore it. But when I’m traveling, ice is the bane of my life. In hotels and motels, the ice machine is always just around the corner, rumbling and roaring like a glacier on the move. All night long, insomniac ice bandits are out there shoveling ice into plastic buckets. They never stop. Three a.m., more ice; six a.m. more ice: What are they doing with all that ice?

If they are putting it into their cocktails, they must be the gargantuan drinkers of the world. A more reasonable hypothesis is that these ice addicts are itinerant Eskimos, dissatisfied with the comforts of the Holiday Inn and determined to build cozy igloos in their rooms, no matter how many buckets of ice it takes. One thing is certain: they don’t need ice to keep cool. It may be hot outside, but hotel air conditioning is invariably set to the temperature of Alaska in March. Ice is the last thing anybody needs.

Summer brings on some odd behaviors. The same people who have been consuming ice all night will soon be stretched out like salamanders around the pool, broiling in the sun. Do they want to be cool, or hot? Just to make the answer more difficult, every pink recumbent body has an iced drink beside it.  It must have been a red-letter day for soda manufacturers when they discovered that patrons could be sold a cup full of crushed ice with about two teaspoons of soda somewhere in the bottom, at full price. That’s another complaint I have: when I order a drink, I want a drink, not a glass full of slightly flavored ice. I’ve never been to Antarctica, but I suspect that Americans stationed at those remote, freezing scientific bases still put ice in their drinks. I’ve certainly seen them do it in England, even though their drink is perfectly chilled at room temperature.

How strange it is that ice, so dreaded and detested outdoors, becomes almost a love object when it pops out of a refrigerator. The belief in ice seems to be a kind of sympathetic magic like nailing a dead mongoose to the door to keep snakes away. Ice is the backup system against the failure of all our other cooling systems.

We look forward to summer, but then seem to have trouble dealing with its most distinctive feature – heat. Long Island and Connecticut do get warm in summer, but not that warm – not as warm as Florida, New Delhi, or the planet Mercury, which has a beach temperature of about 350 degrees in mid-July.

Yet some folks go to extraordinary lengths to avoid the summer heat and stay as thoroughly chilled as they would be in January. No price is too high, no costume too ridiculous to beat the heat. Defenses against the warmth range from simple squirt bottles, and baseball caps with little fans in them, to central air conditioning and swimming pools for those few hot weekends every summer. The next summer fashion statement will be the refrigerated space suit.

The root of all these peculiar behaviors seems to be a terrible dread of sweating. Forty years of deodorant advertising have convinced us that the odor of ordinary human sweat is deadlier than nerve gas. Our faraway ancestors dealt with hot days by wearing no clothes at all and sweating profusely. This is effective and free. I think the environmental movement should promote nakedness as a low-energy, pollution-free alternative to artificial cooling.  Other nations with hot summers, like Greece and Italy, cope in part by having a different thermometer. No question that thirty degrees centigrade sounds much cooler than eighty-five degrees Fahrenheit. When it gets warm, they open windows, run low-tech fans, and live outdoors as much as possible. They drink lots of warm wine, and hot drinks, which are scientifically proven to be better than cold drinks for reducing real body temperature. When the sun reaches its blazing zenith, they take a siesta for two or three hours and start life again when things have cooled down. Buckets of ice are not necessary. Coolness, as any young person can tell you, is a state of mind.

David Bouchier

“It is not a mistake to have strong views. The mistake is to have nothing else.

Anthony Weston

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