Before the invention of air conditioning, living in a place like the Keys was only for the really hardy pioneer. In the pre ac days, the Keys, and most of Florida was a steaming, humid, mosquito infested hell where it was virtually impossible to to function outside in the heat. Now, It’s still a steaming, humid, mosquito infested hell where it is virtually impossible to function outside in the heat, but with tourists. In fact, air conditioning has made it quite livable in this sub tropic climates. It was probably the main invention that allowed all the development to take place in Florida, good and bad. Take the ac away and this place would become a desert island in a matter of hours. Food for thought, but I digress. While the ac has the advantage of allowing us to get relief from the heat, as long as we pay our electric bills and the grid don’t crash, there are some minor downsides to having ac so handy.
For one, air conditioning prevents a person from acclimating to the heat. It takes longer to get used to the high temperatures and in many cases, you never do get used to it. You go out into the bright sunshine and humidity, do whatever you need to do in short bursts, and then make a mad dash for the nearest climate controlled oasis, be it a building, a vehicle, or local watering hole. Not having ac means you have to be in the heat all the time so you adjust accordingly. You move a bit slower, wear appropriate clothing, and keep some sort of beverage close at hand at all times. Things like fans, air scoops, or open windows to take advantage of the breezes do help some but the humidity never goes away. Without ac in your home, moisture builds up bringing things like corrosion and mold to all surfaces. Clothes that are not dried properly will get mold on them unless they are in climate controlled areas. Other things like electronics will build up corrosion inside very quickly with the benefit of climate control. And you learn real fast to store virtually all your food in the fridge. While it’s possible to live down here without the ac, it just ain’t as much fun.
The other problem, and one I have been dealing with lately is something that is hard to avoid. Say you are outside in the heat and doing something that works up a good sweat, like standing still for 5 minutes. Then you go into a building like a store or whatever. Chances are, and this is common with most commercial buildings down here, the ac is cranked down to the low 70’s or less. Walking from 90 degrees into 70 degrees in a matter of seconds is about the same as dropping ice cubes down your back. It feels and is cold. Once you have acclimated to the cold and then go back out in the heat, walking through that door to the outside is like walking into a blast furnace. It physically hits you almost as if somebody swung a baseball bat at you. If you ain’t used to it, and most of the tourists coming through here are not, it is a genuine shock to the system.
The problem I have been dealing with is riding my bike up to the store. As you might guess, even riding at a slow pace, I still work up a good sweat. When I hit the cold ac in the store all that sweat starts to evaporate and I get very chilly. Then by the time I have almost dried out, I’ve done my shopping and I’m heading back out into the heat. From there it’s a ride back in the heat and work up another sweat. Sometimes if I time it just right, I’ll get hit with a nice thunderstorm complete with cold winds blowing and then some torrential rains. Then it’s back home and into the ac again where I keep my little hovel set at 78 degrees all the time. Not too cold, not too hot, and not too expensive. So, with all that running in and out of the heat and cold, I’ve developed the nice makings of a summer cold. Sore throat, headaches, sweat profusely at night, it’s been fun. I used to get colds all the time when I lived up north, mainly because it was so damned cold all the time. Colds down here are rare but I managed to tie one on here lately and it has been a battle.
The bottom line is that if you do come down here and you ain’t used to the heat be careful. Running in and out of heat and ac with a 20 degree difference can have a detrimental effect on people. If you are overweight, have heart problems, or things of that nature, take it easy when you are out in the heat. Slow down, limit the amount of activity you do, and keep some liquids in your body. The non alcoholic type. Going in or out of doors can be a real shock to the system so take it easy. If you are going to be here for awhile, raise the temperature setting on the ac where you are staying to as high as you can stand it inside so it won’t be quite the shock when you go outside. Lower it a bit at night so you can sleep easier. We all talk about the heat and humidity down here but few are ready for it when they step off that airplane or out of their vehicle for the first time and get a face full of real Florida sunshine. Take the proper precautions and you’ll do fine.
Or come down in winter when all the sane people do.
With all the tourists from all over the world traveling through here bringing who knows what kind of diseases with them I went online to one of those self diagnoses websites and plugged in my symptoms:
Yeah, thought so.