Back when I lived in Vermont, I knew a married couple called the Harringtons. They loved each other, as far as I could tell, but when it came to their genetic thermostats, they were like black and white.
Mr. Harrington always ran cold; his hands were as chill and clammy as a dead fish and he wore sweaters up into late spring. Mrs. Harrington, on the other hand, could melt icicles just by pointing at them. She was constantly flushed and sweating. I once saw her walking in a blizzard in short sleeves and she was still red in the face.
It turns out that Mrs. Harrington liked to sleep with the covers on, even though she was always hot. Something about the air on her skin made her feel violated, she said. As you can imagine, summer was hellish for her, and as the temperature rose, she kept the air conditioning on more and more. Little did Mr. Harrington know that his wife had hooked up an extra tank of super-powered Freon to the unit. She had bought it from a Russian spam email and it was apparently not intended for home use.
The first night she used it, the temperature in the bedroom fell to below freezing and icicles starting forming on the drapes. Mrs. Harrington slept like a baby, only waking up from the crash of Mr. Harrington falling on the floor in hypothermic convulsions. To this day, he remains the only case of July hypothermia in Vermont history.
Of course, it didn’t help that Mr. Harrington couldn’t sleep with the covers on. He felt like he was being suffocated and woke up hourly, screaming about being buried alive. As you can imagine, winter was a living hell for him, if hell indeed froze over. He would crank the heat as high as it would go until the Harringtons’ gas bill rivaled the GDP of a very, very small country. The gas company had one whole department dedicated to the Harrington account.
With an Exxon Valdez-worth of natural gas pouring into their house every day, Mr. Harrington could finally get comfortable and sleep through the night, but Mrs. Harrington, on the other hand, was experiencing a much more classical picture of Hell. After she was rushed to the hospital in January and treated for heat stroke, the Harringtons knew that something had to change.
They didn’t want to divorce and the idea of separate bedrooms seemed lonely and the quitter’s way out. One day, Mrs. Harrington found a revolutionary type of bed on E-bay. It allowed each side of the bed to regulate its temperature separately by dividing it with a high-pressure air curtain. Mrs. Harrington clicked Buy it Now without even looking at the price.
The bed was sealed and pressurized inside a big glass box. It worked like a charm: Mr. Harrington could turn the heat up all he wanted and Mrs. Harrington could cool her side down until she could see her breath. The first night they used it, they found that it worked too well. As the temperature difference between the two sides of the bed approached eighty degrees, mini storm fronts broke out along the dividing line. A tiny hurricane swept the length of the bed around 4am, pelting them with a thimble full of rain. Still, neither one wanted to stop using it.
“Giving up on this bed would be taking the quitter’s way out,” Mr. Harrington said.
“Plus, it’s non-refundable,” Mrs. Harrington added.
So, now the couple dresses in their rain-slicker pajamas every night and Mrs. Harrington puts on her sleep mask with the small umbrella attached. Mr. Harrington swears that the tiny lightning bolts don’t even wake him up anymore and that the thunderclaps are as soothing as a kitten’s snore.
It wasn’t easy to adjust, but it was a compromise, and isn’t that what marriage is all about?