Creature comforts

I felt really stupid last week. Most of you will be aware that this is not a rare occurrence.

A fellow boater, not a liveaboard, came by to purchase our old stove. He was curious about life on the hard, and he asked me, “Do you have AC?”

I thought to myself, “Gee, he’s kind of oblivious.” He was standing right next to the big yellow 30-amp cord that runs from the power pole up to the boat.

“Oh, yes,” I said, nodding vigorously and gesturing at the power cord. “We have both AC and DC!”

There was an awkward pause, and then everyone laughed politely. “Oh, you didn’t mean alternating current, you meant air conditioning … er, no, we don’t have air conditioning.”

But I felt embarrassed at the misunderstanding, and I wonder if living in 95-degree heat and 100-percent humidity without air conditioning has permanently addled my brain.

A certain member of my family, upon hearing that Barry and I are going to Burning Man in August to escape the humidity, said vehemently, “You guys are wimps!” This particular individual, who shall remain nameless (but his initials are HHS Jr), lives in an air-conditioned condominium and has a side-by-side refrigerator with an icemaker.

I protest. We are not wimps! It’s just that we need some attitude adjustment, despite a number of well-thought-out changes to improve our quality of life:

Refrigeration: After a month of driving to town every other day ($5 in gas) and spending $5 for block ice, we ran the numbers. At $60, a dorm-sized refrigerator in the cockpit would pay for itself in less than a month.

Our luxurious 1.3 cubic foot fridge has an ice cube tray that makes about 12 cubes the size of your thumbnail. With 12 ice cubes, who needs air conditioning? We even tried buying ice cream sandwiches, but that meant taking out the ice cube tray. Then the ice cream sandwiches melted into a gooey blob and refroze into a flat solid mass that had to be chipped out with a chisel.

Music: We got tired of the tinny speakers on the computer and bought a stereo that plays our iPods. Music is the best mood-enhancer, but the folks on nearby boats sometimes wonder about the belly dance music.

Communication: We picked up a used cell phone and signed up for prepaid service with Alltel, the only company with good signal in the boatyard. Now our phone actually rings on the boat, making it feel like home, thanks to the telemarketers.

And then came the best quality-of-life improvement of all, not even one we initiated. Last week, Bock Marine installed a satellite internet system, giving us access to the Web right here on the boat. No more driving to the Beaufort library, just to check Barry’s online comic strip. No more evenings sitting in the van, watching the tourists as we try to order power tools.

Just as we get all these quality of life improvements, we’re going to Burning Man. We’re exchanging humidity, hurricanes, and fiberglass dust for a week in the desert, with 110-degree days and overflowing porta-potties. But at Burning Man, there are no 2-inch flying cockroaches. And there’s the real reason I’m fleeing the boat. Go ahead, call me a wimp.