Breaking wind

Seeing the weather report is a little like getting pulled over for speeding: You know it’s hot, but you never know just how hot until someone tells you.

Take last week’s record-breaking heat. I didn’t need anyone in a suit standing in front of a weather map to tell me it was a little warmer than usual. The dog burrowing into the dirt under the porch and the unnatural odor emanating from my flip-flops were clues enough. Skin didn’t just stick to leather interior – it sizzled upon contact, the heat forming an adhesive bond similar to Super Glue.

We’re not talking Africa hot. We’re talking surface of the sun hot.

My suspicions were confirmed when I learned the temperatures had topped out in the high 90s – well past my comfort threshold.

In case you haven’t guessed by now – I’m one of those. The most loathsome of creatures: the weather complainer. But before you turn the page, let me clarify one thing. I am no fair weather complainer – nor snowy, rainy or cold weather, for that matter. It is the heat that’s my bane. Like Superman and kryptonite, it saps my energy. I become lethargic, ornery, mentally dull (more so than usual). I spend my days languishing on the couch in front of the fan, moving only to breathe and pull another ice cream bar from the freezer.

So move already, you’re saying. Go to Alaska if you’re so damn hot; make room for someone who will truly appreciate living here. Someone who will be a contributing, productive member of society – and we’re not talking in per capita gin and tonic consumption. And P.S.: It’s summer, and guess what? We live in a desert.

Of course I know all this. Which is why I’ve made a valiant effort to pretend like the heat doesn’t bother me. I have even gone so far as to attempt exercising. Now, I’ve heard that the early morning hours can actually be quite pleasant for physical activity. But they also are prime hours for sleep – which happens to take precedence. So, usually by the time I start entertaining thoughts of going outside, the sun has risen high and the pavement is already sputtering and hissing. But, I tell myself a million Sonorans, Arabians, Saharans and Mohavians can’t be wrong, and step out into the dizzying heat with the best of intentions. By the time I make it to the curb, this line of thinking is clouded by the onset of a mild heat stroke. Blinded by sweat, I usually make it as far as the neighbor’s sprinkler before collapsing.

Of course, it could be worse. Think of those poor souls in Las Vegas or Phoenix, where the temperature is 117. Could have been higher, they said, but the gauge melted. When the poor sap who does the weather report went to get the reading, all he found was a molten pile of glass and metal. And when the other poor sap who checks on the guy checking the gauge went out, all he found was a pair of wingtips melted into the asphalt.

Nevertheless, like any peoples accustomed to adverse conditions, the Phoenicians have somehow managed to rise above it, if you’ll pardon my pun (another unfortunate side effect of the mental dullness reported earlier). I decided to consult my 89-year-old grandfather, a longtime resident of Arizona (Sun City, no less).

“How do they do it?” I asked, wondering if perhaps I had been using the wrong kind of gin in my daily cocktail.

“They stay inside,” he replied. “They go from their air-conditioned homes, to their air-conditioned cars, to the air-conditioned store.”

I considered this approach briefly but was forced to abandon it due to lack of an air conditioner. Sure, I had one in my car, but I hadn’t turned it on since it made the engine overheat a few summers ago driving through the Utah desert.

“The thing is,” he told me in parting, “everyone’s always complaining about the weather, but no one ever does anything about it.”

It was obvious I was going to have to resort to good old-fashioned methods of coping, which for me meant more ice cream bars and a bigger fan. I made the air-conditioning-less trek out to the local mega store where I found I was not the only one on such a mission. The electric fan aisle looked as if it had been ransacked by a mob of angry Huns. Boxes were ripped open, crushed and generally rummaged through. I found one that looked only reasonably pillaged, gave a quick glance inside to see if all the major components were there, deduced that it looked good and headed out. As I lugged my new purchase through the sweltering heat of the asphalt parking lot, the only thing that got me through was the knowledge that soon I would be basking in three-speed, high-voltage, oscillating, whisper lite comfort. But as I got home and began assembly, I realized one key component had been sorely damaged in the melee.

As I made the sweat-soaked drive back to the store, damaged goods in tow, heat blasting through the windows like a furnace, I envisioned my revenge. Fortunately, once inside the store, and after a lengthy wait behind an elderly couple exchanging their 19-inch color TV for a 20-inch one, cooler heads prevailed. I got my refund, returned to the fan aisle, and found one that appeared to have survived the plundering in relatively good working order. I repeated the process: through the parking lot, back across town, and into the house with the unwieldy package.

I feverishly worked to construct my newest appliance, knowing my labors would soon be rewarded. I plugged her in, and the metal blades came to life, music to my sweat-logged ears. There were three settings: wind tunnel, super wind tunnel; and fasten all loose objects. I chose the latter. Immediately, a dull roar filled the room, and I had created my own mini micro-climate. And as the sweet hum of white noise lulled me off to sleep and visions of monsoonal flow danced in my head, I thought summer ain’t so bad after all.

-Missy Votel




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