07/20/2010 02:33 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Frugal Intern: A Summer Sans Air Conditioning

I have no air conditioning in my room. And while I'm fortunate to be living on the second floor of a walk-up with ventilation enough to perpetually drive the odors of chorizo from the downstairs taqueria through my halls, I still pine for a small taste of cold in the night. My room, a linoleum-tiled twelve by eight with one window facing an enormous cement rooftop and a door that swings tempestuously with the outside breeze, is outfitted with a futon (heather gray), a pop-up closet and space enough for me to sit and write this piece with legroom to spare.

I am lucky. To be able to have a room to myself, to use a bathroom that strikes a balance between reeking of anonymous cleaning fluids and reeking of anonymous bodily fluids and to have a kitchen with enough virgin olive oil, sea salt and organically harvested honey to satisfy any seasoned cook -- I am blessed to be able to take these wallflower perks for granted. I don't consider myself a needy, or extravagant, person. Many of the goods that I used to consider inelastic commodities while living under the university roof at Dartmouth I've given up while living in New York.

But all of this was little consolation last Sunday night, when reported the temperature at 95 degrees and the omnipresent humidity made me feel like I was swimming in a vat of lukewarm creamer. I did a mental run-through of where the cheapest air conditioners were be sold in the city and how much my electricity fees might spike if I bought one. An excruciating half-hour later, I fell asleep only with the help of some J.D. Salinger tonic (in the form of Franny and Zooey). In the morning, frugality once again saved the day as I realized it would cost me at least $125 to drag a (used) AC unit into my room for the next eight weeks. I guess I'll just have to pitch the occasional overnight tent on a friend's couch if the heat wave continues to roil in this city.

The inverse relationship between living standards as I migrate from hitting the books at school to hitting the Excel sheets at work has been strange conceptually and pinching in reality. As a full-time undergraduate, I had free access to a gym facility with a dozen treadmills and super-sized fans galore. I was allotted $1,000 a term to eat my appetite away at campus dining halls that provided on-the-spot stir fry and enviable panini options.

Here in New York, access to a YMCA fitness facility would set me back $70 a month -- and this this isn't even to mention options like the $140 per month Equinox Gyms (since I live about three blocks away from Central Park, I am now apt to sling on some sneakers in the morning and take a few rounds about the Jackie O. Reservoir or a longer jog up and down the length of Central). My bills blow hot and cold depending on how careful I am about keeping the lights off when I head out the door, and also how prudent my roommates might be about fiddling with the heat during the night. Life as a student is really only second to sheltering within the Mom and Pop next in terms of comfort and security of provision, something I've come to realize in my last few months of living within my own means.

Interns are a strange breed in that we are (for the most part) a sub-sector of the urban work culture usually assumed to be underpaid to the point where we must find some way to nickel and dime our way through a summer of New York's temptations. Sure, mom and pops are always the omnipotent budget deficit bailout sources but we (as kids who have now teethed our way through not one but two recent downturns) arguably understand our role as as the ones who must account for our own actions and spending habits -- even if that means rolling up the windows nightly and buying a fan in lieu of the grander option of an AC.