Note: This column appears in the 6/11 issue of The Glendale Star and the 6/12 issue of the Peoria Times
Somebody once told me that you can only be considered a true Arizonan once you’ve survived five summers. I am unsure if this is accurate –- both the number five and the term “true Arizonan” seem fairly arbitrary –- but I believe in this sentiment, mainly because I will believe anything anybody tells me if it sounds cool. This is called “journalism.” Look it up.
But this is only one of many, many clichés that pertain to the Arizona summer heat, which include, “it’s a dry heat,” “100 days of 100” and “it is so hot outside that I literally cannot breath.” The reality is that the summer here is hot, oftentimes unbearably hot. And in 2009, we’re just getting started.
I have been thinking about this recently as my wife and I are currently embarking on our third summer here. Judging by the aforementioned guidelines as it pertains to our quest to become true Arizonans, this would be our “hump summer.” (Please do not misinterpret that. Remember, it’s too hot to do anything.)
I wonder if we are truly adjusting to the summertime here (if that’s even possible), or if we counteract the heat through mental warfare. I am leaning towards the latter, as we often find ourselves saying things like, “It’s really not so bad –- you just stay inside!” and “What’s the difference between 100-degrees and 112, ya’ know?” Well, staying inside all day is great if you can do it, but for those of us who actually have to go places, the simple act of getting in your car during the summer is enough to break a man. Also, the difference between 100-degrees and 112 is the difference between getting sunburn and calling an ambulance.
Of course, there are actual physical things a person can do to stave off -– in vain –- the heat. One of those things is something I never thought I would do: use a windshield cover. Back east, the only people who used a windshield cover in their car during the summer were 80-year old ladies, and the windshield covers had dancing bears and butterflies on them. Now I actually use one myself, though it’s a plain old aluminum one that reflects the sun at five-times its normal power and that burns my hands every time I take it down. Another thing you can do if you have to venture outside is use an umbrella. If you should ever see me using an umbrella to shield the sun feel free to punch me in the face.
Our simple philosophy so far has been this: do the little things –- like never wearing a grey shirt unless you have three shirts on underneath -- to counteract the heat, tell yourself that it’s not so bad, and when it really is so bad, which is always, wear it like a badge of honor. When that badge melts, start over.
I’m not going to lie –- the summers are tough, especially considering that summertime is generally a happy time throughout most of the free world. Luckily, we have the other eight months to gloat.
Nevertheless, I am prepared for summer number three. My windshield cover is up, I’ve been wearing sun block just to go out and get the mail, and I’ve stopped eating in order to pay the electricity bill. Should I eventually make it through five summers, I will let you know. I imagine a certificate is involved.