My Air-Conditioned Life

A fat, lazy fly buzzed around my face as a large bead of sweat began it’s slow journey down the center of my back, stopping at my waistband. My forehead was soaked, my neck sticky and I could not stand the sensation of anything, I mean ANYTHING touching my skin.   

The air was as hot and thick and still as I have ever experienced with a heat index soaring well above one-hundred. Trying my hardest to make polite conversation, the faces before me began to blur and my head started to spin as I began to totally and completely lose my shit.

I excused myself from the table—eyes darting around for some form of escape… ANY form of escape—and I moved closer to the edge of the pavilion. It was then that I began to entertain a multitude of wild imaginings including the tearing off of my clothes as I headed straight into the woods to roll around in some mud like a pig on a sweltering, summer day.

I have led, what you might call an “air-conditioned life.”

In all of my adult life I have never had to work in a non-A/C environment or inhabit a non-A/C abode. Granted, I grew up in a home without A/C but in northern Ohio that wasn’t too much of an inconvenience. And I was just a kid who had yet to develope my intolerance to discomfort.

I have a career which includes sitting for hours at a time in a cushy chair in a perfectly temperature-controlled environment… never breaking a sweat (except for perhaps in the occasional staff meeting).

Those who know me best a.k.a. those who have had to live with me learn fairly early on that I have what you might call a “narrow window of comfort” that exists somewhere between 68-72 degrees fahrenheit. Some of them go so far as to consider this behavior “fussy” or “high maintenance” but naturally I disagree.

No I prefer to think of it as being in touch with my “optimum environmental performance requirement.” And what could possibly be wrong with that?

“On the Side” a.k.a. High-Maintenance

The 1989 hit movie When Harry Met Sally is a beloved favorite for men and women alike. It was then and remains today a spot-on, hilarious narration of the intricacies of the male/female romantic relationship.

A couple of weeks ago while I was folding some laundry, it came on the TV and of course, for probably the 18th time… I watched it. And once again, for probably the 18th time… I laughed. Only this time I laughed at something I’d never really noticed before, but has since become a regular source of conversation and comedy in my own relationship.

Early in our relationship, my boyfriend and I watched this movie together. One night, months later, when we went out for dinner he called me “Sally Albright” after I finished placing my order.

At first I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about—Sally Albright. Sally Albright? First of all, WHO is Sally Albright and WHY exactly, did he think that I was SHE? Then he reminded me of the following scene from the movie when Sally Albright and Harry Burns sit down to eat at a diner for the very first time:

Sally: I’d like the chef salad please with oil and vinegar on the side, and the apple pie a la mode. 

Waitress: Chef and apple a la mode. 

Sally: But I’d like the pie heated, and I don’t want the ice cream on top. I want it on the side, and I’d like strawberry instead of vanilla if you have it. If not, then no ice cream, just whipped cream, but only if it’s real. If it’s out of the can, then nothing. 

Waitress: Not even the pie? 

Sally: No, just the pie, but then not heated.

OK. So maybe Sally was a bit, shall we say, particular about how she wanted her meal… but come on, she’s paying for it. But what I call “particular,” most men call “high maintenance.” And such was the case with Harry / my boyfriend.

Of course, what I want to know is: What is wrong with wanting things “on the side?” Salad dressing on the side… sour cream on the side… guacamole on the side… extra avocado slices for your sandwich on the side… extra limes wedges for your margarita on the side… an extra shot of tequila for that same margarita on the side? Since when did asking for anything “on the side” turn into being “high-maintenance”? To answer this question, I’ll refer to a scene from later on in the movie:

Harry: There are two kinds of women: high maintenance and low maintenance. 

Sally Albright: Which one am I? 

Harry: You’re the worst kind; you’re high maintenance but you think you’re low maintenance. 

Sally Albright: I don’t see that. 

Harry: You don’t see that? Waiter, I’ll begin with a house salad, but I don’t want the regular dressing. I’ll have the balsamic vinegar and oil, but on the side. And then the salmon with the mustard sauce, but I want the mustard sauce on the side. “On the side” is a very big thing for you. 

Sally Albright: Well, I just want it the way I want it. 

Harry: I know… high maintenance. 

And there it is. The male take on “On the side.” But I still don’t see the problem here. This is, after all America, and if we CAN have things “on the side,” then why are we considered “high-maintenance” just because we ask for it?

There are things that I prefer a certain way… and if, by requesting them, I am not placing anyone in harm’s way… then I just don’t see the problem. For example:

  1. I like to sleep with four, fluffy, down pillows. But only at night. During a nap, I prefer ONE down pillow and a body pillow.
  2. I like to wrap up in soft, fluffy blankets and it doesn’t matter where or from whom I have to steal them.
  3. I like so much ice in my drinks that with every sip I get the sensation of licking a glacier.
  4. I’ll only drink the orange juice that has NO pulp in it (served over ice).
  5. Individual foods on my plate must NOT touch one another. Unless it is Mexican food. And I prefer to eat one food at a time around the plate… usually in a clockwise direction.
  6. I feel it is perfectly appropriate to call the front desk and register a complaint if my hotel room does not look exactly like the one on the website.
  7. I feel it is equally appropriate to request that compensation be made for the aforementioned false advertising. And that said restitution ought to be delivered in the form of additional fluffy, down pillows.
  8. I place all of the items on my desk at 90 or 45-degree angles and specific items must be parallel or perpendicular to one another or I cannot get any work done.
  9. I must arrange my highlighter pens according to the colors of the rainbow.
  10. I like all of my picture frames to be turned at exactly the same angle on the desk / shelf / table / dresser / entertainment center… and just because I can immediately, upon entering the room, determine that one of them is a degree or two off and I cannot sit down or relax until I fix it…

    Do these things make me high-maintenance?

Sally Albright. It is a nickname that my bf still calls me to this day. And although I have absolutely NO idea why… What else can I say?

I just want it the way I want it.