July 4th: It’s Summer And It’s Hot

[To be sung to the obvious tune]

I have a sad story to tell you
It might upset you a bit
Last night I walked on the sidewalk
And it was hot.
Pity me!

Not exactly poetry, but it has a certain je ne sais quoi to it. The pathos encapsulated by the last line brings a tear to the ocular orifices every time I sing it. Doubtless you are welling up, too.

And that’s because it’s obvious this song of woe is a tale spun from reality. It actually happened to me! Yes. Last night I did walk out onto the sidewalk…and it was hot! Heat—raw heat—covered me instantly, soaking me, drenching me in waves of unwanted electromagnetic radiation. Layers of humidity, one upon the other, attached themselves to my clothing and my skin, making me feel as slimy as a Chicago alderman.

This went on block after block. The heat did not abate; no, not even in the shade. If anything, it grew hotter. And when I finally reached the bodega in which lay the amber, life-giving well-hopped fluid which my body so desperately craved, I realized to my horror that the air in the place was not conditioned! Avert your eyes if you don’t like graphic descriptions of bodily functions—but this final serving of blistering heat actually caused me to sweat!

I tell you the truth: I have never before suffered such minor inconveniences as this.

I should have listened to the radio, to the television, to the newspaper, to the media in every form which had dispatched scores of reporters to the far corners of the city, where to a man each of them reported that it was hot. These dedicated newsmen warned me to stay inside. They cautioned me to stay where the air was electrically cooled. They told me that sure death awaited me if I dared venture forth without saturating my bodily fluids.

Not satisfied with telling me the temperature, the journalists invented something called a “heat index.” I discovered (via statistical calculation) that this was actual temperature multiplied by three. The heat index isn’t therefore the temperature, but is a number to show what the temperature would be were it hotter than it is. It is a kind of maybe temperature, a temperature that isn’t, an index which can be adjusted up or down according to the importance the journalist gives the story.

When I went out onto the street, I naturally expected to see piles of bodies which had succumbed to the heat. But there were none. This was curious. Perhaps those that were to die had died already; their corpses efficiently removed by the Soylent Corporation. Still, I began to question if there was an element of exaggeration in the repeated dire warnings.

As I walked I recalled how I had lived for three years in San Antonio, Texas (average August high of 96 with liquid skies), and again in Okinawa, Japan (a degree or two cooler, but always wetter), and never had air conditioning. As far as I could ascertain, I had not died from this lack. I also remembered that in all the cars I ever owned, there was no air conditioning. Again, this did not kill me.

There may have been lasting damage, however, because I was for years after this an atheist (I have since recovered). Anyway—full disclosure—there was an air conditioning unit in the apartment in San Antonio, but the (so-labeled by Danny Stiles) blonde bombshell with whom I shared the rent would not allow me to turn it on because she was deathly afraid of contracting Legionnaires disease, which she was sure lurked in the recesses of the machine. Yes.

Who knows where the truth lies. But if there’s anything to this global warming we hear about, it’s likely to stay summer until at least September. Worse, sophisticated computer models say the whole cycle could repeat next year.

It’s the glorious 4th. Happy Birthday, America! Be careful, it’s Summer out there and hot. And since it’s never been Summer and hot before, heed the warnings of your elected and unelected leaders and stay away from any activity in which you might find enjoyment.

8 Comments

  1. Every time we get a snowstorm or a heat wave the media acts like it never happened before and it is the end of the earth. And yet these things happen regularly, seasonally and cyclically and they will continue to happen. Derechos happen every year but when they happen within sight of the big media it is as though they have never heard of it before. Imagine that a violent thunderstorm! Who would have thought…

  2. Never underestimate the power to convert “dog bites man” into news.

    When it comes to weather, it seems the quickness of adaptability is oft forgotten.

    After buying the Comanche my then partner and I stopped off at the Flagler County, FL airport to have lunch with a friend who had moved the year before from MD to be the airport manager. It was February. He joined us wearing a tuque, flannel shirt, sweater, ski jacket and a scarf. After lunch he invited us to use the phone in his office to call Flight Service so we wouldn’t have to stand outside in the cold. We told him that when we left MD that morning it was -5 so 75 didn’t feel cold at all. He had three quartz heaters running in his office to ward off the chill.

    There was a King of the Hill episode when Hank asks to his ex-Wisconsinite, now Texan, wife: “Remember when you thought 90 in the shade was hot?”

    Monday’s 95 degree weather felt downright balmy after this weekend’s 104.

  3. I think that the Heat Index is the inverse of the Wind Chill — both useful if you’re the quartermaster supplying troops in Afghanistan or (as you say) an editor in search of a headline.

    Speaking of Afghanistan, perhaps those who complain about the heat would enjoy some of these pictures of US Marines enjoying the sublime West Asian climate.

  4. “as slimy as a Chicago alderman. ”

    That’s why I read this blog. I get no holds barred reporting, and insightful analysis.

    I discovered, today, that on July 4,1911 the temperature in Vernon, Vermont was 105 degrees F, and 106 degrees F in Nashua, New Hampshire. That was over 100 years ago, so these temps probably no longer count as records.

  5. And those same slimy Chicago aldermen purposefully allowed 750 people to die of heat-related deaths in the 1995 Chicago heat wave I suppose. Your sarcasm makes too much light of what happened in 1995. Its your blog but you should perhaps re-think some of this before you post.

  6. Rahm’s Shadow,

    I’m sure you’ll forgive my choice of topic. I loathed to let a crisis go to waste.

  7. Very apt. The shadowy Rahm E. Never missing an opportunity to display moral superiority.

    Briggs, headline in the Salinas Californian our first day in town, “82 Forecast Today. Heat Wave Continues”. Our former home in the San Joaquin valley came in at 102 that day. Newspaperpersons. Gotta love ’em.

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