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JOSEPH N. BELL

Cold-Hot Relationships Require a Degree of Patience

February 17, 1990|JOSEPH N. BELL

At the risk of being accused of committing a gross generalization, I would like to suggest that there are two broad categories of people in this world: the Colds and the Hots.

The Colds are never happy at a temperature under 85 degrees. They wear sweaters when the Hots are wearing shorts, huddle under electric blankets in the middle of summer, break into a rash at the thought of opening a window at night and try to sneak the house thermostat up to suffocating levels.

The Hots, by contrast, sweat a lot because the atmosphere in which we live and work is definitely tilted to the Colds. The Hots would eat dinner in an undershirt if decorum permitted, open doors and windows whenever possible, have to shower after crossing the street at a pace faster than a crawl, sleep under a sheet or a blanket at the most in the winter and suffer a lot in the summer, and sneak the house thermostat down at every opportunity.

My wife is a Cold; I am a Hot.

I was known among a cross-section of girls in both high school and college for my prodigious sweating. It didn't help my social standing any, but I did derive a certain amount of notoriety.

At dances, I was drenched in the first 10 minutes and thereafter dampened both the gown and the ardor of the girl I happened to be with. That hasn't changed much over the intervening decades.

The great injustice done to the Hots of this world is that the Colds can find a comfort zone with layers of clothing or heated blankets, but there is no way the Hots can find relief from an overheated home or office. And most homes and offices are overheated.

Oddly enough, California's moderate climate plays in favor of the Hots.

In cold climates where every home has central heating, it's almost impossible to avoid suffocating in the winter months inside and freezing outside.

But in California, where we mostly have wall or floor furnaces, homes tend to be hot in the rooms where the heater is located and cold elsewhere. This gives a little relief to the Hots and also cuts down materially on house guests from cold climates who tend to freeze in California in the winter. (Remember Larry Hart's line from "The Lady Is a Tramp": ". . . hate California, it's cold and it's damp. . . ."?)

The focal point of the battle between the Hots and the Colds is, of course, in the home. It can turn out to be trench warfare, full of sneak attacks, spies, loud recriminations, unwarranted accusations, and periodic battlefield cease-fires that usually don't hold very long. Compromise is difficult because, in general, the Colds tend to be unreasonable in their demands.

Their argument goes something like this: "Can't you see that I'm freezing? How can you be so thoughtless and selfish? Will you at least close the window so all I have to deal with is discomfort and not pneumonia?"

To which the Hots reply: "I am barely able to breathe in here as it is, and if I close the window there won't be any air at all. Put on a sweater, or two sweaters, and take a deep breath or two. You've never tried fresh air before, and you may find it invigorating."

One of our friends calls her husband "Milhous" when he sneaks the heat down at home. Although an ardent Democrat, he openly and frequently expresses approval of Richard Nixon because he turned the heat down in the White House during an energy crisis, and my friend's wife considers this a fair way of striking back.

The myth that opposites attract seems less mythical when it comes to Hots and Colds. I know a number of families split down the middle on this issue. Another friend was scorched the other night when he climbed into a water bed that he later insisted his wife had turned up to 100 degrees. She denied this indignantly, saying: "It was like being wrapped in a friendly cocoon."

Heating appliances also play an important role in this ongoing struggle.

We have two remarkably erratic wall furnaces in our house. They go out fairly regularly, and after paying several repair bills and being embarrassed by asking neighbors to help me relight the pilot, I've learned to maintain them myself. Sort of. I've also learned that a dysfunctioning heater is a sure-fire way to keep the temperature down in the house.

We are currently having thermostat problems with one of our heaters. After allowing this to go on until it threatened a breakup of the home, I bought a new thermostat for $53 and installed it.

The performance is spotty, at best. The thermostat only works automatically on occasion, but I've discovered that if you press a certain spot, it will kick in. I'm facing two possibilities: that it is a defective thermostat or that I installed it improperly. I don't find either possibility attractive, and have thus tried to strike some sort of compromise with the thermostat so I can nurse it along until spring. Then I won't have to think about it again until November.

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