We were dining by candlelight in a posh restaurant when my wife Barbara leaned across the table and said , “Sweetheart, would you please have them do something about the air conditioning?”

“Exactly what I was thinking, my dear,” I said and waved to the waiter. “Pierre, I’m sweltering. Would you please turn up the AC?”

“Turn up ?” Barbara gasped. “Turn up the air conditioner? They should turn it off! I’m freezing!”

As Pierre walked away, perplexed, I glanced around the room. Most of the male diners had doffed their jackets and loosened their neckties. The women were huddled in bulky sweaters and shawls. Some appeared to have blue lips.

I’ll bet air conditioning is right up there as one of the causes of broken marriages and divorce. Think about it. A hundred years ago when the institute of marriage was almost rock solid, how many air conditioners were there?

Air conditioning places much of the indoor climate decisions into our hands and makes the temperature, at least, a matter of personal choice. But when there’s more than one person involved, that’s a problem.

We once resigned ourselves to weather conditions as being God’s will and changed our plans when necessary. But since our indoor climate is now the result of human decisions, it has become a case of second and third guessing, bickering and occasional fisticuffs.

AC setting opinions vary, depending on the subject’s sex, metabolism, activity level and attire. At a business office, for instance, the female receptionist who burns very few calories per minute and is dressed in peekaboo chiffon, prefers the “semi-tropical” setting. The boys down in the shipping department, however, push the “Arctic Wastes” button.

As management vacillates, yielding to one faction and then another, and as the AC and cooling fans settings are changed, the building temperatures and the wind chill factors fluctuate daily. Absenteeism soars as chilblains and heat exhaustion cases increase.

The internal climate control debate intensifies the conflict between the sexes and might also be contributing to the highway accident rate. A happily married New Jersey couple is cruising southward on the Garden State Parkway, anticipating a carefree day at the Shore. As they approach Perth Amboy, he reaches for the instrument panel.

“What are you doing, Harry? You’re not turning on the air conditioner are you?

“Sweetheart, it’s definitely getting close in here with the sun beating down on the roof. It must be close to 90 out there now and the vent isn’t helping much. I’ll just put it on low.”

“Oh dear! I can feel the icy blast already! Right down to my bones!”

“I haven’t turned it on yet, Alice.”

Just a few miles further, Harry has cooled down where he’s hardly sweating. Alice is wrapped in a beach blanket and sneezing occasionally. Harry relents and pushes the off button. Ten minutes later he is sweating bullets and feeling a little dizzy. “Alice, I have to open a window,” he gasps.

“Must you Harry? I just got comfortable and you know how I hate being storm-tossed. At this speed we’ll have a 60 mile per hour wind gusting in here. That’s almost a hurricane, Harry. Well, if you must, open it just an inch or two.”

The State Trooper pulled Harry over near the Asbury Park exit. “What’s wrong , officer? I wasn’t speeding, was I ?”

“No sir. But I’ll have to cite you for careless driving. You couldn’t have been operating your vehicle efficiently with your nose wedged in the window opening with one eye looking up at the ceiling.”

A sympathetic male judge might let Harry off with a warning and a month’s community service at a nursing home beauty parlor.

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