It was 1988 and I was living in the residence for female grad students at Notre Dame. Summer school ran from late June until early August–right through the very hottest part of summer. While the accommodations were very nice for student housing, they were not built for Indiana summers. There was no air conditioning and we were to supply our own fans.
I was clueless. Having just lived through the worst winter I had ever dealt with (my full-length down coat and I were just about inseparable from November through March) I had no idea that in Indiana, the summers are hot. Real hot. And humid! Back home in northern New Jersey they were counting the number of 90-degree-plus days during the summer; in Indiana we were counting 100-degrees-plus!
We were nothing if not creative, though. We’d carry our little fans from place to place in the townhouse and plug them in wherever we were. We kept the curtains drawn on the sunny side of the house during the day. We took several showers a day. It wasn’t uncommon for students to answer the question, “How are you?” with “I’m on my 3rd shower today. How about you?” We took walks in the shade around the lakes. We spent time in air-conditioned churches and chapels. And whenever we saw a lawn sprinkler aimed across a sidewalk, we walked really slowly through the cool spray.
Basically, we all lived with it. We groused and griped a little bit, but we survived, and we did it with a sense of humor. I can’t speak for anyone else that summer, but I know I also did it with a little thankfulness. I was there to get an education, and I accomplished that goal. Living through that hot, hot summer was just one of the many small sacrifices that were made to get that degree. It was a small price to pay. And it’s just a lucky thing that I did this when I was young and clueless enough to just take all that as a matter of course. I think that if I were offered the same chance a few years later, I’d have checked on the creature comforts first–and possibly turned down a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.