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Summers in the Bay Area

I grew up in Houston, where summer highs stayed in the 90s and winter lows only dropped to the mid-40s. That should make me comfortable on warm days, and yet, I feel like it wasn’t until I had my first summer in California that I truly learned what it was like to feel hot.

That first summer, the temperature rose into the 90s for less than ten days, and living on the top floor of a 4 story apartment building, all of the hot air rose and hung in our unit. During the day, we kept our windows and blinds closed to keep the heat out and avoided using our oven. At night, we opened up the windows, turned on the fan, and hoped that it would cool down enough for us to fall asleep.

We did all of that because we didn’t have air conditioning.

In Houston, it is actually quite easy to forgot how hot it was outside because you don’t go outside during the summer. You go from your air conditioned house into your air conditioned car (only opening the garage door after your car is running) to the air conditioned grocery store and back again. In fact, my mom often carries a jacket around with her in 100+ weather because the A/C makes her cold.

In the beautiful Bay Area with a Mediterranean climate, we only need A/C for a week out of the year, so many residences don’t have it. None of the places I have lived here have had A/C, so we know the drill. And yet, it can only do so much.

Three weeks ago, we had the hottest heat wave I can remember in recent history. We came home after work to an indoor temperature in the 80s. We opened the window, and we debated about whether it was hotter inside or outside. With a daily high in the three digits with a nighttime low in the mid 70s, we stuck it out with fans and ice cubes.

Apparently all of the local stores were sold out of portable A/C units, though it doesn’t matter much to us because we aren’t allowed to install A/C by our HOA rules. Julie may disagree, but even if we could, I’m not sure I would. For just a week out of the new, it’s oddly comforting to feel the summer.

When I was applying to colleges, I irrationally resisted applying to California schools because “they don’t have seasons.” I was thankfully persuaded to look past that issue, and I certainly appreciate not dealing with mosquitoes or snow. And yet, I still like the idea of seasons.

Days get longer, and days get shorter. Sometimes I need a waterproof jacket to bike into work. Sometimes I just have a t-shirt on. Julie and I discuss when it’s time to change the comforter on our bed. I enjoy hot chocolate on a chilly day. I enjoy going to the pool on a hot day.

Within the narrow bounds of Bay Area weather, seasons add a rhythm to the rituals in my life, and it makes those summertime activities special. I guess I need that week of heat to remind me about how nice the rest of the year is.

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