Monday, May 29, 2006

The Heat of Summer

May 29

If you once lived in Fairhope and have relocated to somewhere else -- anywhere else -- you wonder how anyone ever tolerated the hot summers we have here. I remember talking to an old friend in the mountains of Switzerland. He then lived in Rhode Island.

I said, "It was so humid there! I don't think I was ever completely dry until I was 30 years old."

He said, "I remember one night in particular."

"Oh, yes!" said I. "It was even hot at night! People don't believe me when I tell them how hot it was at night."

"One night I couldn't sleep. We had fans, we had ice water, wet towels, showers, everything we could think of. But this night I woke up so hot nothing worked. I went out in the yard, looking for a breeze."

"I did that too! I remember doing that one night!"

To put a pinpoint on it, this night was probably in August of the year 1951. Maybe 1952. The weather service would have records. I've had the above discussion with a number of friends, all roughly of my vintage, and we all describe the sweltering night when we walked out into our yards, wailed at the moon, or prayed to God for relief, fell into the hammocks or the lawn furniture, yearning for a spot somewhere that was not so still and hot. All the county, to hear us describe it, must have been swarming with lawns full of little kids leaning on the tire swings and moaning.

But this is only the end of May. We have lots of weeks before that kind of weather returns. It's just that when it gets here, it stays. There is no "cool snap." Summer has come like a warm damp blanket and you are trapped.

At least today nobody suffers. There is air conditioning. Nobody would dream of going outside looking for a gust of breeze, not even an ignorant little kid. We don't go into the natural air except for emergencies when we have to brave those few moments between the air conditioning of the house and the air conditioning of the car. Outdoor living, pictured so elegantly in the catalogues and television shows which feature recipes to be cooked on the grill, is not even attempted in the buggy, muggy Deep South. Our porches tend to be glassed in.

The forecast portends temperatures in the high 80's all week, with lows of 70 at night. We already know, from the predictions of last week, that this means 90s during the day -- and just keep that air conditioner going at night because with the humidity, if you don't want to end up out on the lawn in sight of a lot of little phantom moaning little kids, you're going to need conditioned air all the time if you want to sleep.

Summer has begun.

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