Summer Sounds: Air Conditioning A Summer Sound from Teller, half of the magic duo "Penn & Teller." He tells us about the noisy air conditioner he had growing up in Philadelphia — and how he conquered it.
NPR logo

Summer Sounds: Air Conditioning

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/140042769/140043172" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Summer Sounds: Air Conditioning

Summer Sounds: Air Conditioning

Summer Sounds: Air Conditioning

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/140042769/140043172" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

A Summer Sound from Teller, half of the magic duo "Penn & Teller." He tells us about the noisy air conditioner he had growing up in Philadelphia — and how he conquered it.

MELISSA BLOCK, host: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED From NPR News.

All this summer, we've been celebrating the chirps, rumbles, hisses and hums of the season. Today, we offer a summer sound from the shorter, usually silent half of the stage duo Penn & Teller.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing) It's summertime.

TELLER: I'm Teller, and my summer sound is air conditioning.

(SOUNDBITE OF AIR CONDITIONER)

TELLER: It's midnight in August 1962 in my bedroom on the third floor of my parents' brick row house in Philadelphia. I'm 14, and there's a noise keeping me awake.

(SOUNDBITE OF AIR CONDITIONER)

TELLER: It's the growling buzz of my quiet cool window air conditioner. The plastic louvers act as a resonator, like the soundboard of a piano. So when the compressor revs up, the quiet cool roars like a Harley.

(SOUNDBITE OF AIR CONDITIONER)

TELLER: I wedged wadded tissues into the plastic louvers.

(SOUNDBITE OF AIR CONDITIONER)

TELLER: That muffles them a little bit, but not enough. Now, I like the sound of a nice humming motor. I sleep in cars on road trips. And I could sleep well when it's silent too. But the alternation of humming motor and silence ca-chunking off and on at unpredictable intervals, that's psychological torture.

(SOUNDBITE OF AIR CONDITIONER)

TELLER: Finally, I discover an immoral solution. It's the thermostat setting called constant cool.

(SOUNDBITE OF AIR CONDITIONER)

TELLER: That means the refrigeration is on all the time. It still isn't quiet, but the roar is continuous, good for sleeping. But, oh, so bad for my parents' electric bill. Now, downstairs, in the second floor, it's still hot and humid, not a breeze stirring. My father is fitfully tossing and turning in boxers on top of his sheet, with the window desperately flung wide-open. My mother sweats in a recliner, an oscillating fan stirring the air around her like a spoon in warm milk. You see, my parents could afford only one air conditioner, and my parents said that since my room was on the top floor and heat rises, I needed it more than they did.

To a 14-year-old only child, that's good scientific logic. It's now freezing cold on the third floor. I put on socks and flannel pajamas, pull out a winter comforter, snuggle guiltlessly deep into the covers, and like a polar bear in an Arctic cave at last fall asleep.

BLOCK: That summer sound from Teller, the normally silent partner in the stage duo Penn & Teller.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.