heat wave | Weekly view

July 28, 2022


No: This is not the 1963 hit song by Martha and the Vandellas. A walk around the neighborhood in the early afternoon is something only the most enduring among us can safely undertake. It’s hot outside. As I write this, the temperature in Indianapolis is 90 degrees. Along with the humidity, the heat index makes us feel like we’re wading through 92 degrees. And we are promised at least 96 degrees before the end of the weekend. During the third week of July, Texas and Oklahoma recorded record temperatures of 115 degrees; 28 states issued severe weather alerts as temperatures soared across the country. In the UK, where summer temperatures rarely reach 86 degrees, temperatures of 104 degrees were recorded “for the first time in history”. It’s something hot.
The second office I managed as a loan officer for a loan company was in Madera, California. I visited the office before my wife and child came to live in town, and the residents had valuable information for me. “It’s up to 108 degrees here,” I was told, “but there’s hardly any humidity. You won’t know you’re too hot until you drop dead. This rather dramatic characterization of the region’s heat hazards impressed me so much that I drank gallons of water every day just in case the weather got warmer.
I have often told people that I prefer warm weather to cold weather. I grew up in Pittsburgh PA where the average winter snowfall was 95 feet. (It seemed.) I could never put on enough clothes to stay warm on my walks to school. (School bus? What school bus?) The hilly streets offered chilling adventures for fashion-conscious young men (me) who wore leather-soled shoes and full-length leather coats. If you slid to the top of an icy hill, your coat became a slide that propelled you screaming to the bottom of the hill. Five years after graduating from high school, I headed for the warmth of other suns, Los Angeles, California. When a job transfer brought me to the Midwest in 1978, someone I met in New Albany, Indiana invited me to go skiing at Paoli Peaks. I asked why I would purposely go in the snow and cold.
In July 2008, I spent three weeks with my good friend in Clearwater Beach, Florida; she was a teacher for whom school was still in session. I was newly released from my job so, while she taught in air-conditioned comfort, I roamed the beaches and cooked in the sun every time I left the bars and pool tables. It was the hottest three weeks of my life, even hotter than Madera. And since the ocean was within walking distance of her front door, the humidity was monstrous.
I interrupted the writing of this column to take a walk. It was 73 degrees when I started, and 40 minutes later it was 75. The heat is expected to climb to the 96 degree mark, making me reconsider my “warm versus cold” perspective. Maybe we can have a bit of both, mixed together in a way that gives us a more temperate environment. As Goldilocks said when tasting the third of three bowls of porridge she found at the three bears’ house, “Not too hot and not too cold: Just right.” (Or in Cassidy Hutchinson’s possible words, “She said something like, ‘the porridge was…just right.'”
But as St. Louis rapper Nelly sang, “It’s hot in herre…”

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