There will be no cooling-off period at the thermostat


AND SO it begins again, the age-old struggle, the eternal battle of wills, the epic clash between testosterone and estrogen that plays out at the thermostat every day.

Oh, I've written about this before - not that it's done any good.

The basic problem is this: I like the house cold.

My wife likes it to feel like Fallujah in July.

So all summer long, we sneak back and forth to the thermostat to further our own shabby little agendas.

I turn the air-conditioning down so the house is nice and cool.

A few minutes later, she turns it back up.

Feeling the house getting warmer again and realizing what she's done, I tiptoe back to the thermostat to turn it down again.

Ten minutes later, she'll creep back to turn it up.

And people wonder why I'm so paranoid.

Whatever happened to trust in a marriage?

Whatever happened to accommodation, to compromise, to detente?

Friends of ours always ask: How long has this been going on now?

I don't know ... how long did the Peloponnesian War last?

Ten years? Fifteen years?

This has gone on way, way longer.

This has gone on since the Gerald Ford administration.

Oh, we tried talking the whole thing out, my wife and I.

But that sort of went nowhere.

What's there to talk about when, on the one hand, you have a man with a normal vascular system and, on the other hand, a woman with the vascular system of a gecko?What's there to talk about when the man's reactions to heat and humidity fall within the accepted range of 95 percent of the human race, while the woman's reactions to heat and humidity fall within the accepted range of a cyborg?

What's there to talk about when the woman watches TV in the summer with a shawl around her shoulders, evidently trying to make some kind of snide statement about the room temperature?

A few years ago, we even sought out an intermediary for this problem.

My in-laws were visiting one weekend, so we laid the whole thing out in front of them over drinks and dinner.

They listened and nodded thoughtfully, and then that little weasel of a brother-in-law of mine, who was half-buzzed on wine at this point, said: "Well, I can see both sides of the argument ... "


Thanks, pal.

There's a job at the U.N. in your future.

Lately, my wife has taken to justifying her sneakiness at the thermostat by saying she does it to keep our utility bills down.

"If we kept the house as cold as you want it," she says, "our bills would be through the roof."

Look, I say, I don't care about the bills.

I'll get a second job on a loading dock, if that's what it takes.

Every evening, I'll wrestle refrigerators and washing machines and other major appliances into the back of 18-wheelers bound for distant warehouses in Eugene, Ore., and Sacramento and Salt Lake City.

Bad knees, a shaky hip, I don't care. I'll swallow Advil like they're M&Ms;, if I have to.

I'll work like a dog until 1 or 2 in the morning, then come home, get a few hours sleep, and go off to my other job at the paper, where I'll try not to collapse from exhaustion.

If that's what it takes to pay the bills and keep this place cool, then by God, that's what I'll do.

Now, please, I say to my wife. Don't touch the thermostat, OK?

Sure, fine, she says.

You've made your point, she says.

Then she smiles and leaves the room.

Ten minutes later, I hear her fiddling with the thermostat.

And shortly after that, the house starts feeling like a tree hut along the Amazon.

So here we come again, into the teeth of another long, hot summer.

As I write this, it is 90 degrees outside. The humidity is off the charts - an evil-looking layer of steam has settled over the trees and bushes and lawns.

Here inside the house, the air-conditioning kicks on for a moment, then falls strangely silent.

Is that someone at the thermostat?

Don't talk to me about paranoia.

I prefer to call it eternal vigilance.

You ask me, it's a small price to pay for comfort.

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