Tell me, readers, what strikes you as a reasonable temperature for one’s home in winter? 70 degrees? Maybe 65? What about 60? Now let me tell you, my friends, the long and complicated story of how my apartment’s baseline temperature made it down to forty-eight degrees Fahrenheit and stayed there for forty-eight hours. It is a story of challenge, of confusion, of communication and lack thereof. Most of all, it is a story of pride. Please sit, or start your treadmill desk, and get ready to hear the chilling tale of Western Manor Apartment K-6.
It all started last winter. Though a mild winter even for North Carolina standards, it did feature days that fell below comfort levels. It is a time of year when every group of roommates must come to an agreement regarding the degree to which they will take advantage of fossil fuels and energy to create unseasonable warmth in their place of residence.
Enter one Mr. Nathan Freeman, a Vermonter with an ineffable aversion to the climate of his youth. When Nate first joined our apartment, he moved upstairs into the room next to mine. Shortly thereafter he removed the grate on his vent and positioned his desk such that he would spend his nights bathed in a column of hot air from the ceiling. To accomplish this, he set our house to what I’m sure many of you would consider to be a reasonable 68 degrees.
Not me. Maybe it was my ascetic upbringing. Maybe it was my father who didn’t hesitate to use the word “evil” to describe an overutilization of resources of any kind. Maybe it was the fact that the particular thermodynamics of our apartment made a 68 degree thermostat set downstairs into a sauna in my room . In any case, I was not going to put up with such a temperature, and I told Nate as much. Nate disagreed, leaving us at an impasse. Unable to resolve the matter between us, we had to reach out to the only affected third party.
Our enigmatic third roommate, who asked to be referred to only as “J” lived next to the kitchen and spent most of his time in his little room so quiet that no one could possibly know if he was even home or not. You would be cooking dark and all alone in the house when the door behind you would creak open, sending a chill down your spine. Before you could spin around and scream, J would step out, turn on the light, and say “hi, how’s it going?”
J was from Minnesota and, as it turned out, impervious to cold. This got me on the better side of majority rule and we set the temperature to 63. What I didn’t expect, though, was that later that week, when he and Nate were both leaving for the winter vacation, J would come to my room and tell me, “I’m going to be leaving for a while, so I’m setting the thermostat to fifty-four degrees. Is that ok?”
I didn’t have a very good sense of how hot or cold different specific degree temperatures were, but having so recently called upon the power of our icy landlord to settle my dispute with Nate, I knew when I was being challenged to put my money where my energy-conserving mouth was. “Oh, definitely,” I huffed with the cockiest smirk I could muster, “54 is totally fine.”
“Ok,” said J, giving no hint on his face of what he was thinking. He closed the door. I heard his footsteps as he walked down the stairs and I imagined the beeping of the thermostat as he plunged it to a new low. I looked outside my window at the leafless trees and the squirrels huddling together against the bitter winds of winter. hmph, I grunted, I’m not afraid of the cold.
Next week: Sam lives in a house at 54 degrees for a week.
(Continue to Part 2 ->)