By Hannah Berman

Not everything that spoils in the heat is food-related. Sometimes, people get spoiled in the heat.

Every morning, I listen to the weather forecast for the day. I’m not sure why it matters because, unless the prediction is rain — in which case I will take an umbrella with me when I leave the house — I am not likely to do anything differently regardless of the forecast.

During the cold winter months and this hot and humid summer season, I wear whatever I want to wear. If it’s hot and humid, I don’t feel any more comfortable wearing a short-sleeved tee shirt than I do wearing a long-sleeved one. Heat and humidity is a miserable combination, and the length of my sleeves makes little difference.

So when I heard the weatherman announce recently that it would be warm and somewhat more humid than it was yesterday, I had a cavalier attitude. The final part of his forecast was that it would be uncomfortable sleeping weather that night.

It was that sentence that got me thinking about my central air-conditioning, which went on the fritz a few weeks ago. It happened during the hottest and most humid week of the entire summer, days that we refer to as a hot spell. That my air-conditioning broke down then wasn’t surprising because air-conditioning always breaks down during the very hottest days.

It was late in the evening when I called my electrician, Richie, who is an air-conditioning specialist, and left what can only be described as a frantic message on his voicemail. He heard the hysteria in my voice and called back immediately to say he would be at my house early the next day. True to his word, he arrived at 8 a.m., and then the days of fun began. He noted that I was out of Freon so he replaced it. Freon is not cheap, but the bill was keeping with what most A/C companies charge. The most important thing was that the air-conditioning began to work immediately and my house got cooled to a comfortable 70 degrees. I was thrilled. All was right with my world.

Unfortunately, my joy was short-lived. The next evening, with the thermostat set at 70 degrees, the temperature was a very uncomfortable 78 degrees. Once again, I called Richie, and, once again, he came to my place early the next day. His diagnosis was that there was a leak somewhere since I was once again out of Freon. I had little choice but to pay for it a second time. He did not charge me for a second service call, but he told me that there was a small valve somewhere (I paid little attention to the location of the valve) that he hoped was the source of the leak. He wanted to start with the smallest, simplest, and least expensive thing first.

But the same scenario repeated itself a day later when, once again, the A/C stopped working and Richie had to come back a third time. Again, there was no charge for a service call, and when he discovered that I was once more totally out of Freon he knew that the valve was not the problem. Obviously, there was a major leak somewhere. This came as no surprise to me because anything that goes wrong is always major.

Miserable from the heat, I suggested that since my A/C system was somewhere in the realm of ancient, perhaps he would need to install a new system. His response was, “Don’t be so hasty. I’m not anxious to spend your money unnecessarily. Let me try to find the leak and let’s hope it’s in an area that can be easily dealt with and quickly repaired.” I agreed, of course, since, despite suffering with the heat and humidity, it was better than parting with big bucks.

He made a call to two of his workers. They arrived within minutes, and the three of them got busy searching for the leak. Suddenly, my house was a beehive of activity. The three of them went up and down the basement stairs several times and also went in and out of my house repeatedly until they located the leak. Fortunately, it was in an area that could be taken care of easily, but, even so, the cost was sizeable. Nevertheless, when it was finally fixed I felt weak with relief. (Actually, my weakness may have had a lot to do with my three days of shvitzing.)

Fast-forward a few weeks, and these memories came flooding back to me when I heard the weatherman say that sleeping tonight would be uncomfortable. My thinking is that he has no idea what discomfort is unless he has tried to sleep without air-conditioning. The days without air-conditioning were miserable enough, but there is no way to describe how awful the nights were. Now and then, on a warm night, if I feel hot as I am falling asleep, I stick one foot, or an entire leg, out of my blanket. Amazingly, that does make a difference.

My other solution to beat heat that is making me uncomfortable is to turn my pillow over. The underside of a pillow is always cool. But between sticking my leg out from the blanket and then doing the pillow-turning thing, I get very little sleep because it amounts to a full night of activity. But that’s just when it’s a warm night — not when there is no A/C during a heat wave; that is truly unbearable.

On occasion, I make an effort to remain calm. I try to be my own life coach and I talk to myself. I tell myself not to be such a baby and not to be so spoiled because so many people in this world have it so much harder. As I tell myself these things, I feel proud of myself, and that makes me feel minimally better. But that feeling doesn’t last. Within a short period of time, somewhere in the realm of two to three minutes, I forget about the rest of the world and the seriously suffering people who inhabit it, and I go right back to being miserable and feeling sorry for myself!

Unquestionably, I am spoiled. I’m not proud of this, but that’s the way it is. 

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at or 516-295-4435.


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