My first job in the U.S. was an office job. There had been a few reasons for me wanting to quit that job, yet a pretty unlikely reason really pulled the plug: The air-conditioning system. The damned thing was set way too high. Full blown summer outside and inside the office you had to wear a coat and a scarf to avoid catching pneumonia. Yes, I do understand…the humidity and the heat don’t go all that well together in Baltimore, but, my darlings, I am Greek. We do like to have the air-conditioning system up there on the wall just in case the temperature hits 40C, but we do not keep it on 24-7 at 17C. 17C is the ideal room temperature for red wine, not for a human being, or even worse than that, your average run of the mill Greek.
However, once an American visits Athens during the months of July and August the lack of necessity for a constantly air-conditioned environment makes one very perplexing case of culture shock. Taxi drivers prefer to open their windows rather than turn their air-conditioning on. Some will say it gives them a sore throat, others will say they prefer natural air or that the heat prepares them well for jumping into the sea upon arrival at the beach. Whatever the case, Greeks would rather not turn the thing on unless worse comes to worst and giagia (grandma) will surely die of a heat stroke.
Living in a natural non-air conditioned environment makes a much too real and bumpy ride. It can get hot, it can get breezy, it can get windy and it can get cold. After taking in the heat, the seawater feels so much better. And once it gets breezy, especially after a hot day at the beach, the sensations cause one’s heart to miss a beat. Feeling the cold brings about a forced taste of sadness. Getting a crazy wind suddenly hit your hair or snatch away your scarf brings about a state of alarm, unrest and seating at the edge of your seat for a while. Then it turns to a sense of freedom. Emotions and weather intermingle to create an interactive body to mind experience. Is that what makes Greeks passionate? Or is the fact that they are such an emotional group of people causing them the irresistible need to keep themselves exposed to the weather changes as the come along?