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
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
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
“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.