Revisited: Hot enough for you? It is for me

The heat is on
The heat is on
The heat is on
Oh, it’s on the street
The heat is…
– Either Glenn Frey or Don Henley, I forget which, and seriously doubt there’s really all that much difference anyway

Today’s forecast in my area of the country calls for a high temperature around 85 degrees. Tomorrow is projected to be 88, with the following day topping out in the low 90s. For me, it’s too damn hot already, and it’s only the end of May.

I’m not a big fan of warm weather, probably because I was born and raised in Florida. When I was a child growing up in Miami, we’d have very little variety between wonderful weather and fabulous weather (except for the occasional cataclysmic hurricane) and it got to be very boring. To this day, I remember the excitement one morning during my 17 years there when we awoke to find a clog of ice in the garden hose and a thin frost on the lawn. It was as close to a snow day as we’d ever get.

While people in northern climes were yearning for retirement to the Sunshine State, we had to endure a boring sameness throughout our environment. With no real autumn, we never knew what it meant to see the leaves changing. My grandmother had to mail me an oak leaf from Pennsylvania so I would get some basic idea. We had no mountains and no hills, just an unending flatness. Stairs were exciting. When Dick and Jane cavorted in the fictional snow of our first-grade readers, we thought they were dead and in heaven, frolicking among the clouds.

All heat and no cold made Christmas especially problematic. How would Santa ever be able to come visit us? Sleighs don’t lend themselves well to travel on the high-speed Florida Turnpike. Reindeer will end up run off the road and flailing in the canals, a tasty holiday treat for the alligators. Santa’s going to get a god-awful chafe wearing that wool suit in our heat. How will his swollen legs fit in our chimney, even if we had a chimney or knew what one was? My parents reassured us that he’d make a special trip to south Florida in a helicopter and that he’d wear seersucker golf pants for his trip down through our air conditioning ducts and into our living room. Not quite the picture painted in TV’s Christmas specials.

When I moved to Tallahassee in the northern corner of the state to attend college, it didn’t get much better. I did finally see my very first snow flurry but still had to endure my entire freshman year on the top floor of an un-air-conditioned dorm. Fortunately, we were all so cool that it didn’t matter. My only outdoor camping experience to this day came during a worse-than-normal heat wave when we hauled our mattress out on the grass to sleep. The washer women who handled our bed linens loved us for that one.

Now, of course, I’m a mature adult, living far enough north to at least experience some seasonal changes, and I still say I hate the heat – I hate it, I hate it, I hate it! It’s stupid and it’s gross. You get all sweaty and stinky and, worst of all, extremely irritable.

Fortunately, just about all of the interior world is air-conditioned these days, so I do have the option of adopting a hermit-like existence for the next four months. Right now, for example, I have a wonderful view of this balmy late spring day by looking out the floor-to-ceiling window from my icy perch inside a frigid cafe, complete with working fireplace. It looks beautiful out there – the trees are green and swaying in the breeze, the clouds are wispy, the sun is bright – but I know it’s really a hellish inferno.

The cold comfort of conditioned air serves me well in most spots, though not in my workplace. My business operates in a converted warehouse that wasn’t really designed for a cubicle-farm office. I’ve had my desk positioned in several different locations throughout this large room, yet no matter where I sit I’m always too warm. When I arrive in the morning, the two women from the night shift who sit on either side of me are huddled in their sweaters, portable heaters glowing at their feet. I turn on a small fan aimed at my legs under the desk and a large one that I aim just over my head. (I’d have it blowing right on me if I could figure out how to proofread financial documents while they’re flying through a whirlwind.) The loud roar of the two announces that a man has arrived, and he’s not comfortable.

My coworkers are about 75% female, and I think this is part of the dilemma. We once called a repairman to the office to fix what seemed to be chronic AC problems. He fiddled away with the thermostat for some time before scanning the room and reporting that he had discovered our problem. “Most of your people are women,” he told my boss. “They give off more heat than men.” This seemed to me to be one of the lamest excuses for not doing your job I had ever heard, though it’s something the U.S. Senate might want to keep in mind as they consider the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. (Those judicial robes make the Snuggie look well-ventilated.)

In the years since, I’ve occasionally battled with the women in my office on this subject. One argument I thought should be convincing was that we should keep it cooler because, while they can always put more clothes on, I can’t be taking more clothes off. Well, I can, but I’m sure it would mean a rather unpleasant visit with the human resources guy. One lady showed up on a July morning last year wearing a sleeveless sundress to work, and immediately began complaining how cold the air-conditioning was. “Have you considered wearing something that covered the upper half of your torso?” I countered.

Maybe I’m noticing the heat more in recent years because I’m getting older. My wife tells me that men don’t get hot flashes associated “the change,” and she knows about such things (I’m just saying she’s a very knowledgeable person, not implying anything more.) I’ve thought about buying one of those “cooler collars” I’ve seen in the SkyMall catalog, though I suspect that would work about as well as would lugging around an icepack in my pants. Or I could contract one of those tropical diseases that give you the chills.

Maybe I’ll suggest another training trip for myself to India. Their heat makes ours feel bush league by comparison. And there’s a good chance I could come down with Dengue Fever.

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3 Responses to “Revisited: Hot enough for you? It is for me”

  1. fakename2 Says:

    I had always heard there were people who liked the change of seasons, which I pretty much thought was an excuse for hating hot weather. I never really thought they gave a damn about what color the leaves were (or if there were any).
    I personally love Christmas lights in palm trees. It’s a small price to pay. It’s almost impossible for it to get too hot for me. I am possibly a reptile.

  2. Paul Dixon Says:

    Davis-I think the heat must be getting to you. Your freshman dorm room was on the 6th floor of a 9-story building, and it was, in fact, air-conditioned. (The only dorm without air-conditioning was Smith Hall).

    I feel your pain, though. As a native, life-long Floridian, I despise the heat also.

    I remember that night where about 20 of us hauled our mattresses outside Salley Hall because the air-conditioning broke. By the next morning, I awoke to find that I was the only one still out there. I felt like an idiot.

  3. Beth Says:

    Paul Dixon knows whereof he writes. I was on the seventh floor of the severely un-air-conditioned Smith Hall at the time, and pulled my mattress out of its cubbyhole cut into the wall and on top of my desk, positioned in front of a window fan in the room’s only window, and still thought I was going to melt. And I was from Charleston, SC.

    Just the result of poor planning– 10-story building, limited windows, no A/C, mattresses in spaces cut into the walls, well out of the way of any stray breezes.

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