The gift of heat waves
Connecticut is currently in the grip of another heat wave, and many responsible columnists will use their newspaper space to outline the critical actions we should take to avoid the associated dangers. Unfortunately, I’m neither responsible nor energetic enough to Google anything right now — instead, I’m dressed only in my boxers, sucking on a Popsicle and huddled nervously in front of my air conditioner. It’s making death rattle sounds and blowing warm air; if it goes, I’m packing a pillow and a toothbrush before settling in at the nearest Costco to wait this out.
In my younger and more ignorant years, I hated heat waves. They ruined camping trips and killed grandmothers all over the country (we watched a lot of Fox News when it first came out). We’d wake up so drenched in sweat that we didn’t make our beds for several hours so our mattresses could dry out first. My dad didn’t believe in air conditioning — I’m pretty sure he was worried it would steal our souls. He waited until he retired and moved to Florida to buy central air (Floridians have no souls).
Now that I’m older and the proud owner of several air conditioners that spew tiny black flakes and drain our bank account, I’ve come to appreciate the hidden treasures that heat waves bring. It’s the only time I’m able to imitate my dogs without becoming a social pariah: I get to sit on the couch for days, drink plenty of fluids, and take long naps. Occasionally, I’ll even have accidents on the kitchen floor just because I don’t feel like walking down the hallway.
I have to remind my wife that I do these things not because I’m lazy — heavens no! I do them because my very life is at risk if I proceed with my normal routine. While some still believe hurricanes and tornadoes are the biggest dangers at this time of year, heat waves kill more Americans than any other type of natural disaster. In fact, the American Meteorological Society states that heat kills more than 1,000 people each year. If watching reruns of the George Zimmerman trial and eating Chubby Hubby ice cream will prevent my wife from becoming a widow, then dammit I’m going to do what it takes!
The World Meteorological Organization defines a heat wave as a span of five consecutive days or more of maximum temperatures exceeding the average by nine degrees. I can watch at least two or three seasons of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit on Netflix in five days, depending on how often I have to go out for more ice cream.
As much as I’d love to re-seal the driveway or finish painting the fence, most heat-related deaths occur because the victim has been too long out in the heat or exerted him or herself further than age and physical condition should allow. Sure, I could risk taking out the trash when my wife complains about all the empty ice cream cartons, but the fact is men sweat more than women and are therefore more susceptible to dehydration. So, yes — I could climb up on that ladder and fix the roof tiles like I’ve been promising to since Hurricane Sandy. I could — if you want me to die!
I suggest we stop vilifying heat waves and start celebrating the hidden gifts they bring to overworked men and women everywhere. Don’t feel like working out? Good — it’s too dangerous out there, anyway! Don’t feel like cutting the lawn? No problem — the grass barely grows during drought conditions. Looking for an excuse to get out of your sister-in-law’s recital? Google “symptoms for heat exhaustion.”
The glass is always half-full, even when left out in the withering temperatures we’re experiencing this week. That is, unless you have something against naps and ice cream-in that case I say, “Enjoy your stay in Russia, comrade!” (Sorry, it’s just really, really hot in here … .)
You can read more at RobertFWalsh.net and contact him at rob@RobertFWalsh.net or follow him on Twitter @RobertFWalsh.