Hot Water

August 2005


Everybody has some kind of weather that they hate. I hate hot weather. I do not like it and I do not understand people who do.

There's a person for every climate, they say. So, there must also be someone that hates every kind of climate we've got on Earth. Pretty silly, I guess, considering that we have all the best and none of the worst climates we know about in our solar system. But speaking as somebody who won't be leaving the planet anytime soon (at least not under my own power), I hate hot weather.

Hot weather is miserable. It interferes with everything you want to do and makes most folks about as industrious as an old hound dog. People go to great lengths to make themselves cooler. In recent years, air conditioning has been an increasingly common accessory in cars and in homes. I don't like air conditioning much either: one might as well go live in a submarine as live in a big ice box. Everything smells funny. It is expensive. When it breaks down, it's a real tragedy and not just an inconvenient nuisance.

As a natural consequence of my disinclination to hot weather, I live in a part of the country that doesn't have very much of it. It rains a lot here, but it's usually a nice cool rain, not like in Thailand where it can be appallingly hot and raining buckets of water at a temperature they tell you is dangerous to set your hot tub at. In Arizona or West Texas or the lower reaches of the Mississippi, I think suicide would occur to me far too frequently in the summer months for me to survive long there. I like rain, actually. They say that in some desolate parts of Southern Chile (Tierra del Fuego) there are places where not a drop of rain has fallen in all of recorded human history (in the region of about 500 years). I can't imagine wanting to live in a place where every day it was hot and sunny and dry and one had nothing different to look forward to in the next week or next month, or even next year, but more of the same hot (or cold), dry sameness.

Still, most of us have got it pretty soft these days. Even if you live in some skillet of a town like Washington DC, you can get a cold drink, or a cold shower, or go pretend to buy frozen food at your local grocery store. People didn't used to have those luxuries. Think of what it must have been like in 18th century Paris or Madrid -- five or six weeks of weather in the 100s, some years. Not a stick of ice in the whole place. Not even any fresh water to drink. Very little water you or I would like to bathe in, and none of it cold.

I have been cold. It is not pleasant, but it doesn't go on like being hot does. You can almost always do something about being too cold. Few children of my immediate acquaintance got frostbite -- even in Minnesota, where frostbite is not unknown. Everybody's been sunburned, more or less. And if you think brown people can't get sunburned, you're wrong. It's harder to get a bad sunburn if your ancestors came from Nigeria than if they came from Norway, just like its harder for people who live above the Arctic circle to get frostbite in their fingers and toes than you and me, but it can easily be done.

I'll be glad when it gets to be fall and the wind blows hard enough to cause a shiver down your back. Walking up the beach against a good, cold, steady wind provides one of the best pleasures in the world: turning your back on that wind and getting blown home to a nice warm chair by the fire.

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