We’re Havin’ a Heat Wave

In 1995 the city of Chicago experienced a week long heatwave. When it was over there were over 700 people dead. Many of them were elderly. Most of them were from poorer neighborhoods where air conditioning or even leaving a window open is a rare thing. The morgues were running out of room. Refrigerated trucks were brought in to handle the bodies.

In 2003 a heat-wave hit most of Europe. Reports I have heard was that after that was said and done nearly 30,000 people were dead because of heat-related issues and problems. Can you imagine that? When I was married my ex-wife’s grandparents lived in a town of 200 people. Therefore more than twice that town’s population was killed in the Chicago heat wave and I have been to a city with a population of 25,000 people. That’s a lot of people dead from the heat.

Back in 1995 I was living in St. Louis. Let me tell you something about St. Louis. The Vents of Hell are located in St. Louis. They open them with little ceremony sometimes in July. I think they may be located under the Arch somewhere. July and August in St. Louis is not fit for man nor beast. It’s like trying to establish a colony on the surface of the sun. Walking out your door is like walking into a wet blanket. You have to swim to get anywhere but instead of being refreshing it’s hot, sticky, nasty water that just makes you smell bad.

Back in about 1995, during the hot month of August, my friend Scott came and knocked on my door. I opened the door to find him standing on the porch dressed mostly in black. Sweatshirt and sweatpants on. He had some kind of padding underneath. He was a goalie for a roller-hockey team that played in an out-door rink that was only covered by a roof but not fully enclosed. He was doing this kind of weird warm up dance and bouncing back and forth from left to right like he was trying to develop some new dance craze. I made a comment about the heat. I will never forget his response.

“I think it’s invigorating,” he said, continuing to bounce.

I must have pondered that sentence a billion times since he spoke it. Invigorating? How on earth could anyone find weather so oppressive that the printers I had at work would often jam due to the humidity affecting the paper inside invigorating? How could you find atmosphere with air that has actual weight invigorating?

It does take all kinds, I suppose. Just last week I had a discussion with a co-worker who has previously expressed that she enjoys the hot and humid weather. We were discussing the heat wave that was predicted for this weekend. Myself and another co-worker were saying we were not looking forward to it. This other co-worker also made a rather baffling statement.

“It keeps your skin moist,” she said.

My response was that what she calls moist I was calling sweaty. I would rather be dry and have to put on lotion than so “moist” I am sticking to everything. When you sleep in cold weather you can always add blankets. Once you take off the blankets and clothes there’s nothing else you can do when it’s hot. Unless you can slide your skin off or something, which would be cool.

Something happens to the sky when the weather gets like this. The National Weather Service starts color-coding the days and they were doing it long before the government was doing that about the terrorist threat. Today, here in Chicago, they are calling the air hazardous. Why? Because the air just doesn’t move as much when it gets like this. The pollution that comes from so many people living in one spot doesn’t get blown away. It sits over the city, turns the sky from blue into a kind of dirty yellow and then just coats your lungs.

Now contrast that with a cold fall or winter morning. I love those mornings. I get up and put on my shoes and throw on a light jacket, especially if it is fall. I take my dog out. The sky is a brilliant crystal blue. It’s the kind of blue sky you used to draw with crayons when you were a kid. It’s the kind of blue they should make jewelry out of. The wind is blowing and it’s a wonderfully cool breeze. It isn’t so bitter it cuts right through you. It’s just enough to make me close my eyes and sniff the air, listening to the rustling of the trees. The air smells better. It’s wonderful.

Now, me, I also like taking a walk during a snow storm. Not a blizzard where the snow is small and stinging and blowing right into your skin sideways. No, I like the big-flake, slowly falling snows. The snow has a muting effect on everything and when you walk in that it’s like walking all alone in the world. I love bundling up and walking as the sidewalks and grass slowly get buried beneath a pure beautiful white. I love it when the only footprints are mine as they trail out behind me and then slowly fill with more snow. Everything seems to have been wiped clean after a snow-fall. The sun glints off of the snow the next day like a billion tiny diamonds.

Today the heat is continuing. Of course, tonight they are predicting thunderstorms, another treat from summer that I loathe. When it gets this hot it tends to de-stabilize the air. Then when the cold front comes through it creates these monstrous thunderstorms.

They are recommending that you call elderly neighbors and friends you may have. They are suggesting you just check on your neighbors if you happen to know that they don’t have air conditioning. Everyone seems to be walking slower today. Even the birds disappear when it gets this hot.

I for one am just looking forward to October.

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