It’s a valid question, in more ways than one.
When I read Time commentator Eric Kleinenberg’s Air-Conditioning Will Be the End of Us, I had to laugh. The point of the article was to highlight just how much Americans rely on A/C, how much energy it eats up, and how bad it is for the environment. He writes
After all, despite our other green tendencies, most Americans still believe that the wise way to use air conditioners is to crank them up, cooling down every room in the house — or even better, relax in the cold blasts of a movie theater or shopping mall, where someone else pays the bills.
Here we have the opposite problem.
Although not technically promaja (the Deadly Draft), air-conditioning is considered a welcome–but somewhat suspect–modern convenience in Serbia. You see, technically (in reality?) air-conditioning is MOVING AIR.
Worse, it’s COLD, moving air, which in itself is inherently menacing.
A/C in Serbia is like the new, young and charming Catholic priest starting his service at the diocese.
Most of the time it’s all good, but there’s a chance of danger if parents are not super-watchful.
A/C might cool you off and even prevent heat-exhaustion, but it can cause … dum dum dum. Sickness and Death.
It’s true! It happened!
Last summer, in a news story that has since become urban legend, a couple with an infant drove from Sweden to Serbia (why not just fly with the baby, I do not know) in the middle of a heatwave. They used the air-conditioning, set on 71F/22C. Apparently when they removed the baby from the car and directly into the oven-like heat, the poor infant went into some type of cardiac arrest and sadly, died.
And so, even if you have air-conditioning, you cannot use it.
For the rest of that summer, whenever I got into a taxi with my two kids, the driver dutifully made a show of turning off the air-conditioning. I had to specifically request that we have A/C.
“Are you sure? What about the children?”
“Yes, please, they are very hot and sweaty.”
Shaking his head, he reluctantly turned the A/C back on.
Perhaps during the day, but definitely NO air-conditioning at night
Especially around sleeping children.
Generally, apartments here do not have central air. Each room, and sometimes not even then, has its own unit, and they actually work pretty quickly. They can cool down a room to sleep-able levels in five-ten minutes. In my view, this is a fast, convenient aspect of homes in Serbia.
However, locals view it otherwise. I’ve learned that it can be very dangerous to leave the air-conditioning on in a room with a sleeping child. Why? Because if a child sweats when he sleeps (and he is very likely to do so, with or without A/C), and the parent is unable to wake the child and change his clothes quickly enough (because a child can never wear sweaty clothes) … Oohhhh, that is not going to be pretty.
I know one kid who begs his parents to let his sleep in only underpants–because he knows better than to ask for the A/C to be on at night.
Truly, no one in that house is getting a good night’s sleep … not the kid who’s being woken up two or three times a night to have his clothes changed, and definitely not the parents!
But hey, at least Serbia isn’t contributing to global warming nearly as much as the U.S. For that, we should all be thankful.