You can’t believe anything I say right now; the wires in my brain have fried, due to the extreme temperatures I am exposed to on a daily basis, and my ability to distinguish reality from the bleary haze of my heat-induced hallucinations is severely reduced.
Everything I am about to tell you is 100% true.
Two weeks ago I bought snazzy new seat covers for my Subaru. I need them because my car seats are already thrashed even though I’ve only had my car a few months. I swear I see new spots and stains on them every day. I can’t wait to put them on.
“If you can’t wait why haven’t you done it yet?” you’re probably asking. “Didn’t you say you got them two weeks ago?”
Why yes, I did. Thank you for asking.
My excellent new seat covers are sitting on a chair in my dining room, spilling out of the box they arrived in. A few feet away are the French doors; through those doors and down a few steps my Subaru sits. Seatcoverless.
You want to know why? I’ll tell you why. BECAUSE IT’S TOO FUCKING HOT TO DO ANYTHING OUTSIDE UNLESS YOU HAVE A DEATH WISH. OR A REFRIGERATED ASBESTOS SUIT.
By the way, it’s also too hot in my house to do anything. Did I mention we don’t have air-conditioning? Yesterday’s high was 107, but I think the second story of our crumbling, old (coincidentally) 107 year old house actually reaches about seven gazillion degrees in the afternoons, give a take a degree or two.
The lack of air-conditioning (commonly referred to con afecto as AC) has been a long-standing issue¹ in our home. To air-condition the beast we inhabit is ridiculously expensive. When we first moved in, during the summer of 2001, we foolishly ran the AC with abandon, as if we had Freon growing on trees and money coming out our asses. We don’t, by the way.² Our PG&E bill was in the thousands. As in dollars.
We now have what is commonly referred to as a swamp cooler, or an evaporative cooler. I prefer “swamp” to “evaporative” for obvious reasons. I love our cooler, and actually prefer it to an AC, because it brings moisture into the air. The air is incredibly dry where I live. You can soak yourself with water in the backyard, getting yourself and your cotton t-shirt and panties sopping wet, and by the time you reach your back door, they’re barely even damp anymore. A swamp cooler brings welcome relief to this desert we live in..
The thing is, the swamp cooler works great until the temperature reaches 100 degrees. I’m not exactly sure what happens scientifically, but our swamp cooler gives up and says “Fuck y’all I’m not even trying anymore” as soon as the thermometer crosses into the triple digits. It blows out warm, tacky air that may or may not smell slightly fishy, depending on I don’t know what.
In recent days I have tried to be less, well, bitchy about the heat. Thought it makes me feel fractionally better to complain about how hot it is, I am fully aware that those around me are not amazed by my sizzling monologues. I have decided, instead, to look at all the good things there are about living in a place that’s unbearably hot from May to September, and inhumanely hot in July and August.³
For one thing, I don’t clean my house anymore. I’m serious. It’s too hot. The pair of sandals I took off because they were making my feet hot are still sitting in a chair in the hallway, on top of a stack that includes the last book I taught; some sprigs of lavender I picked before our lavender bush gave up the ghost last summer; a dish towel, and a Buzz Lightyear action figure. The energy it would take to return all these items to their rightful places is too much in this heat, so I just leave them there, along with the dust on my surfaces, the spots on my floor, and chewed up bits of debris that are left on the floor when my puppy Ophelia is done chewing whatever it is she got hold of. It’s a great freedom, not cleaning your house. Imagine my glee, after tidying up after four kids and their friends and my husband and myself for all these decades! I no longer have the ball and chain of a clean house dragging behind me.
Also, exercise is out of the question when it’s this hot, so I’ve said goodbye to it, too. My body, once (not that long ago) strong and firm from riding my bike to work in the bay area, is now soft. Squishy. Like a steamed dumpling. Or a fat puppy. And I mean, come on, who doesn’t like puppies and dumplings?
Another advantage of living in god-awful heat is that it forces you to become innovative–innovative in so many ways. For instance, say it’s nine million degrees outside so you don’t want to go to the grocery store to buy ingredients for dinner. What do you do? You forage through your freezer to find something that you can manipulate into a meal without using any heating elements at all, because even a fucking toaster puts off more heat than you are willing to release into your swampy home. You might be surprised what you can do with an ancient frozen zucchini bread, frozen peas, and all the leftover ice cream nobody wanted. Think of the money saved by avoiding that trip to the store. And you can brag to your friends that you are recycling, reusing, and reducing, even if it’s if only the contents of your freezer.
Amazingly, the increase of innovation is not limited to food. Did you know that you can put your underwear in the freezer for like an hour and then when you put it on it will chill your genitals to the degree that you almost welcome the warmth that returns when your chonies thaw and the water in them evaporates into the oven-baked air? Just be careful not to put them in there after you have already sweated into them, because they’ll freeze up into a sold cold mass that could knock out a window, and you don’t want to let in any of that evil hot air.
In a zany, roundabout way this heat is also good for the environment. The planet’s ecosystem is complex and relies heavily upon symbiotic relationships between many species; I like to think our backyard is contributing to this beautiful process. Since the triple digits have ascended upon us (up from the depths of Hell) I no longer sweep or spray off my front porch and surrounding area, leaving spiders free to make their sticky webs that now drape across the width of the porch in their lovely, lacy way. Birds now swoop into our porch area, tempted by the hundreds of flies trapped there, looking for all the world like a savory, stringy smorgasbord for pigeons and sparrows.
Our cat Mo–long hated for his murderous behavior towards backyard birds and squirrels–is keeping the whole food chain thing going by promptly pouncing on the birds who line up at the fly buffet. Seeing a dead bird on our porch now is as common as the feeling of a spider web clinging to your sweaty face or the particular pain of blistered, weeping feet when you’ve forgotten your shoes and you thought you could just sprint across that strip of concrete.
Some quick additions to the list of benefits:
~clothes drying on a rack are ready in the time it takes to cook something in the microwave that you should have actually baked in the oven
~you are less likely to get robbed because it’s unbearably hot outside for the criminals too
~you save money by not throwing dinner parties or having people to your home because you know they wouldn’t be able to “take the heat” as the old adage goes
~you spend less money on going out because even though everyplace you go is chilled like a meat locker you still have to walk from your car to the door of the establishment across burning-hot-like-lava asphalt which feels like what I imagine fire-walking feels like, and that thought alone makes the idea of going out sound like a horrid idea. 4
At current writing, my husband has either had enough of the heat, or he is totally over being married to a crabby, sweaty, verbose woman, and has called in an expert: a local air-conditioning company whose name was still barely legible on the side of our ancient unit.
The man who crawled up into our hot and dusty attic (and who has the same first name as my husband) to assess the situation told us that the unit we have there was installed by his deceased father, who started the company. My husband Brad was telling me this great story about this other Brad and his father, but I was impatient for him to cut to the part where we were getting a new AC. I might have been slightly rude. I can’t tell you exactly what transpired during the appraisal of our home with the other Brad, because when my Brad was telling me I couldn’t quite hear him over the whirring sound of the various fans in the room. I couldn’t even see him really; my vision was blurred from all the sweat rolling into my eyeballs.
What I do recall is this: there’s no point in trying to save the old 5 ton unit; it was like space age technology at the time it was installed, but now it’s practically prehistoric. We’ll need another 2 ton unit for upstairs, too, if that’s what we decide to do. We don’t know what we’re doing yet. We don’t even know how much it would all cost yet. But the point is, we’re doing something, and the thought of that is like a sudden and unexpected cool breeze on a hot day.
Until that time, you can find me in my own backyard, in a six foot round pool filled with water and a few ice cubes still impossibly intact, reclined on a giant floating alligator from Costco. We bought the pool (and the alligator) for our 4 year old grandson, but he doesn’t mind if I use it. I found it to be the best way to stay cool; additionally, while I am immersed there in a plastic dinosaur kiddie pool, I have been given the opportunity to enjoy the fresh smell of grass, experience the muffled silence of floating with your ears underwater and your eyes closed, and be positively grateful for the moment I am in, even though I know that as soon as I get out of the pool I will be hot and crabby again. It’s the marvel of the human spirit; it’s the rise of the phoenix. Or something like that. I can’t remember. My brain is fuzzy from this godforsaken heat.