Hitting the road in air-conditioned discomfort


Everyone in the gas station is looking at me funny, maybe because it’s 97 degrees outside and I walked in wearing long pants, a turtleneck sweater, a parka and earmuffs. I’m joking. I don’t own earmuffs. But it’s times like these I wish I did.

I’m on a two-week road trip with my husband who, in my opinion, is a little too fond of the air conditioning. Mostly we’re compatible traveling companions. We agree about how often to stop, what music to listen to in the car and what to see along the way. Also, he enjoys driving and I enjoy napping. We’re a perfect match except for one thing: He likes Arctic winds blowing from the vents and I’m more a summer breeze kind of gal.

We’re not alone. A lot of couples disagree about where the thermostat should be set, whether they’re traveling or not. And when opposing weather fronts collide, it often results in a storm pattern.

Many of my fellow reptiles grudgingly agree that it’s better for us to put on more clothes than it is to have hot-blooded folks going around wearing fewer of them. We’d even go so far as to admit that we’re the lucky ones. Better to need a sweater than be a sweater.

But we also think our partners get a little carried away with the A/C. We don’t care about the temperature outside. We want gauges on our dashboards telling us what the temperature is inside the car. That way they could see how unreasonable they’re being.

The following strategies will help the cool-as-cucumbers crowd travel in air-conditioned discomfort with their hot-blooded, cold-hearted traveling companions.

1. The driver gets to set the thermostat — unfortunately. My spouse gets drowsy if the car is too warm when he’s driving. If it’s too cold, I have trouble sleeping. But even I can see that his concern is more pressing.

So if your partner is driving, let them adjust the dials and then negotiate from there. And by negotiate, I mean turn down the air conditioning a smidge when they’re occupied pumping gas or changing lanes. Not too much though or you’ll be in hot water, which isn’t as pleasant as it sounds.

2. When you buy your next vehicle, make sure it has bun warmers. My husband never uses that feature; he thinks he’s in the hot seat too much already. But I use it year around. If our car didn’t have heated seats, we’d have to travel separately wherever we went.

3. Dress for the weather — the weather inside the car that is. No matter how hot it is outdoors, I never wear shorts or tube tops when we travel. Of course, I never wear tube tops when we’re not traveling either, though I do wear tube socks.

Also, I often wear a pair of lightweight driving gloves when the cold winds blow in my car. Don’t laugh. It’s not like I’m wearing mittens. And I don’t care what anyone says, cold hands do not make a warm heart.

4. Finally, don’t worry what other people think. If you’re like me, you won’t feel like stripping down every time you get out of the car and bundling back up before you get back in. Besides your traveling companion may not wait for you — not after they caught you adjusting the temperature every time they passed a car.

But whenever you get out of the car, you’ll be surrounded by half-dressed people, some of whom will be looking at you strangely in your down jacket and stocking cap. Hold your head high, march into that rest area like you own it and silently repeat the following mantra I use whenever I travel: It’s OK. I’ll never see these people again.

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