I’m working in my underpants. Sorry if that’s way too vivid an image for you. But it’s in the mid-90s, my apartment has tall south- and west-facing windows, and I have no air conditioning.
Those of you who aren’t screaming and pouring Clorox directly into your eyes should read on for tips on staying cool.
Unless your office observes really casual Friday, you can’t go to work in your underpants the way I can. Most of the time it’s great to be a freelancer/at-home worker because:
- The commute is a cinch.
- You can take breaks any time you want. You can even go to a movie in the middle of the day. (Then again, when traditional wage slaves are breaking out of their stanchions at 6 p.m.. you’ll be trying to catch up on what you should have been doing.)
- No one cares what you’ve got on, even if it’s only dollar-store underwear. I’m pretty sure I still own pantyhose, but I’m not sure where it is.
On the other hand, an office would probably be air-conditioned. Things even out.
So I crank the blinds inside out to reflect the sun, set up the pedestal fan ($4, rummage sale), and make a big pitcher of iced tea. I move slowly. I wear light clothing or none at all until I have to go out. My lunch today was a smoothie made with frozen blackberries, a banana, some milk and a little sugar.
(OK, so that’s almost a milkshake. “Smoothie” sounds healthier. Permit me a little self-delusion. It’s hot in here.)
The good old days were…sweaty
Any of you tempted to say, “Our grandparents didn’t have air conditioning and they did just fine”? No, they didn’t. They merely endured. And those with health problems may have expired a little sooner than necessary, especially in crowded cities where buildings were constructed for maximum use of space rather than with attention to site placement, cross-ventilation, awnings, shade trees, etc.
Come to think of it, a lot of buildings are still being designed that way. Here in Seattle I see condos and townhomes jammed cheek-by-jowl with few windows and no green space. Which explains why the ass-ends of so many air conditioners mar the facades of those buildings.
My apartment has tall, horizontal-sliding windows, so that pretty much precludes an air conditioner. Besides, Seattle doesn’t get hot enough often enough to bother. So for a few days a year I put a wet washcloth on the back of my neck and drink a lot of iced tea.
Three times costlier than gasoline
Homemade tea, of course, is the only way to go. Ever read the unit-price label on your favorite bottled tea? Even the cheapest stuff runs as high as $5-plus per gallon, and the flavored or “all natural” bottled teas cost between $8 and $13-plus a gallon.
If gasoline cost $13 a gallon, people would riot.
Just a few aisles over from the bottled tea are boxes of tea bags. At a supermarket near me, the 100-count box of the Shoppers Value brand costs $1.39. When it goes on sale for a buck I buy eight or nine boxes. Each nets me 25 two-quart batches of tea, which works out to 8 cents per gallon.
Those of you who can taste a difference between generic and brand-name products can always watch for loss leader/coupon combo deals. I’ve paid as little as $1.39 a box for Lipton tea, the brand my mom always used.
Some folks prefer loose tea, saying it has better-quality leaves and more flavor. That’s probably true. But mine is a proletarian palate. I’m OK with Shoppers Value.
Even after adding sweetener and lemon, I’m paying practically nothing for my beverage. Besides, I have a couple of frugal hacks for those two products. I trade spent ink cartridges in at Staples and use the resulting scrip to get Sweet ‘n Low for free. Instead of using real lemons, I add a splash of Wyler’s Light lemonade, which I get at Walgreens for about 33 cents per two-quart pitcher.
Like I said: Proletarian palate.
If you can boil water, you can make tea
Don’t like artificial sweeteners? Use sugar, but add it to the hot water as the tea steeps so it dissolves completely. Unless, of course, you’re one of those heathens who drinks unsweetened tea.
Everyone has a favorite tea recipe. Here’s what works for me: To a cup of not-quite-boiling water I add four tea bags and let the brew steep for 14 minutes. Yes, that’s strong enough to stand a spoon in, but afterward I add it to enough cold water to fill a two-quart pitcher.
When the pitcher is half empty, I steep another four bags, then remove them and put the cup in the fridge. Although it looks cloudy after a day, don’t worry: The taste is not affected, and adding water turns it that perfect pale amber. Having a cup of tea elixir on hand at all times ensures that you never run out of tea, an important consideration on hot days.
You can get much fancier, of course. An Internet search (preferably using my site’s Google widget – it’s just above the Swagbucks one) will yield recipes for spectacular sips like peach mint green tea, minted mango tea, cranberry ginseng tea, and sparkling red and green tea.
Tea contains antioxidants, and in the past I’ve read studies indicating that tea:
- Is good for your cardiovascular system
- May stabilize blood sugar
- Can help guard against osteoporosis
What I know for sure is that it tastes good, it’s very cooling and it’s extremely cheap. That is, unless you’re determined to pay $13 a gallon for the stuff.