Herald Journal Columns
July 4, 2005, Herald Journal

The power to enjoy summer

By LIZ HELLMANN

Power corrupts. I must turn your attention to a very serious problem that is taking place right now in homes, movie theaters, and offices everywhere.

Air-conditioner abuse. As the weather turns ever more balmy, we humans have decided to take the blessing of climate-control to the far extremes.

And believe me, climate control is a blessing. I wouldn’t want to be dripping sweat on the keyboard during the day, either.

However, I have waited all winter for weather to turn warmer. I have paid my dues, like many other hard-working Minnesotans, and I would like to enjoy it.

Many hours were spent shoveling off my car and scraping frost off my windows, all in anticipation of that glorious season when I would walk to my car, simply open the door, and drive away.

I remember one early morning, when I was scheduled to open the restaurant in which I worked at 6 a.m.

The night before, there was a huge blizzard, and three feet of snow had packed my little car into the slightly slanted, and icy, parking space it occupied.

I think it took me half an hour to finally drive out.

But the snow is gone now! So why am I still cold?

Let’s revisit the air-conditioner abuse. It seems that, in many things, if we have the power to do something, we do it.

If we have the power to make the inside 30 degrees colder than the outside, then why not do it?

I have always noticed this to be a problem in many different environments, including business offices, restaurants, and especially movie theaters.

Stop the madness! As if we don’t get enough cold in Minnesota already, must we turn summer frosty, too?

The most noticeable of these places is the movie theater. My friends and I have long noticed we must seriously consider our wardrobe options before going to a movie, especially in the summer.

For example, if it is about 80 degrees, we will wear shorts or skirts, and tank tops, and most likely some form of open-toed shoes.

Suddenly, someone will suggest we go to a movie. But this simple suggestion necessitates a major wardrobe change. To go to a movie in the summertime, you need to wear jeans, and bring at least one sweater; mittens are not a bad idea.

Open-toed shoes? Are you kidding me? I can just see it now. Luke Skywalker is about to defeat Darth Vader, when suddenly, the ambulance crew rushes into the movie theater and amputates a poor girl’s little toe that has gone numb with frostbite. Bet those Steve Maddens won’t look so cute now.

Although I don’t understand why movie theaters do it, I can offer some sympathy to restaurants. Having been a waitress myself, I understand the necessity of cranking the air up.

Given the choice of eating with the goose bumps, or dealing with the sweaty waitress that just collapsed from heat exhaustion on your table, I think you would agree with me.

As for business owners, I don’t know why they keep their offices so cool, although it does seem to be a universal standard. Maybe they don’t want their employees to get too hot-headed? Who can blame them?

Perhaps these places, since they thrive on people staying inside, are banking on the fact that if it’s cold enough, people will forget how beautiful and warm it is outside, and will stay inside.

Movie theaters take climate control one step further, by severing all remembrance of light or the sun.

Yes, I realize it makes it easier to view the movie, but there are very few windows in the movie theater. It is like you are living in a cave, only to focus your attention on the fixed drama immediately ahead of you.

It is a very convenient way to watch a movie, but a sad way to spend an excessive amount of time.

Which brings me to my next point, which also wastes away the beauties of summer, being a bad bum.

Being a bum is what summer should be about, but there is a certain technique to it, that only people who have had their summers taken away at some time or another can understand.

Lying on the couch is not an acceptable form of being a bum-especially if it includes hours upon hours of watching TV or playing video games. Such things should be limited to rainy days, and a couple hours a week.

Lying outside, on a beach, in a park, or in the backyard, is an acceptable way to be a bum.

It’s quite easy, and it gives due appreciation to the fact that you don’t have to put on seven layers of clothes before setting foot outside.

Other acceptable forms of being a bum are to go swimming, in a pool or a lake; go fishing, play golf, talk a walk, go roller blading, or ride a bike.

Trust me, a day filled with these things is a lot more enjoyable than sitting on the couch and watching TV. There are studies to back me up, but experience is the best teacher.

I challenge all people to pick a week in which they just go home and watch TV or sit inside. Then, choose a week in which they cannot watch TV at all, and must be outside for a minimum of one hour doing one of the things listed (or another enjoyable activity).

I also challenge parents to extend this to their children, who are home all day during the summer.

I guarantee you will be amazed at how much more fun it is to be a bum the right way. Maybe kids will realize what we did without, gasp, satellite TV.

So take advantage of summer,. Even though it might be a little warm, I will take this any day over scraping snow off my car.

And to those who have been invested with the power of climate control or the opportunity to be a bum, remember: Just because you can recreate the arctic in the middle of July, or watch six Star Wars episodes in one day, doesn’t mean you should.