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Thermostat Wars

Growing up in the upper Midwest acclimated you to the cold, and temperatures above freezing during the winter were considered warm spells. The reverse was true in summer, however. Summer days above 90°F were rare, but when they occurred it was an air conditioning emergency. Then we moved to Texas.

A summer day in Texas that is only in the 90s is considered a cold wave. Triple digits are frequent visitors during the height of summer. Moving from Northern Illinois to Texas is like turning the hourglass upside down from a weather perspective. It wasn’t long however before I became as used to triple digit weather as I had subzero temperatures up north. I would mow our grass during the hottest portion of the afternoon. If I was getting overheated, I would simply jump in the pool, clothes and all, then continue my work with full appreciation for the effects of evaporative cooling. Summer afternoons in Texas became synonymous with being outside and relaxing in the pool. Then came my injury.

“People with cervical (C1-C7) spinal cord injury have a problem with temperature regulation,” said an article I read about the subject. That is akin to saying that people who live in a house with a broken thermostat have trouble keeping the temperature where they want. Yet it is an apt comparison. By the time I feel like I am getting too hot, I am likely starting to overheat. The problem is quickly alleviated however when I get inside into some air-conditioning. When I get cold however, it is like a disease that gets inside my very bones. It might take several hours before I feel my temperature is back in equilibrium. I may not realize that I am cold for a while however, and I think my children know this.

It started during the summer, but now it happens almost year-round. When our children come over, the first thing they do is crank down the thermostat. With one arm around my wife to give her a hug, the other arm is reaching for the thermostat. At first my protests were vocal, but then these began to be ignored. After that we threatened to turn on the fireplace, which all the women were in favor of but not our sons. All we succeeded in doing was preventing the thermostat from being turned down into the 60s. Then one of our sons gave us the gift of a Wi-Fi thermostat. Big mistake!

If I am on my computer, I’m able to countermand the absurd notion of turning a thermostat down to 72°. I am also now empowered with the great equalizer. I can program the thermostat such that they can only override it by as many degrees as I desire. That is akin to the nuclear option however, because they will surely retaliate. For now, it serves as a sort of standoff, much as the concept of mutually assured destruction did during the Cold War. If I ever do go there however, I will be sure to have the thermostat pop up with the following message after they attempt to override my setpoints.

If we were outside on a 77° day, you would delight in the beauty of nature. So, I would suggest you close your eyes, pretend you are outside and revel in the beauty of this glorious day!

Slice of Life series articles are those that share the special experiences of those living in a wheelchair in a way that is witty, informational, poignant, and even inspirational. Do you have a story? Share it with us at

The Great Equalizer

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