Growing up, I lived in an old farmhouse that didn't have central air. We had a couple window air conditioners, as did most everyone else I knew, and I don't remember feeling particularly near death during summers.
Once I graduated high school and moved to the "big city" for college, I enjoyed central air in the dorms until I moved into the houses in the student neighborhood ("The Ghetto") at which point I ended up moving into my fiance's apartment and mooching his central air.
This weekend, a storm took out electricity for thousands and thousands. Our home joined the ranks of the powerless from Friday afternoon around 4:30 until Sunday evening around 6:30. I am pretty sure if my husband had not been home, I'd have croaked. Literally.