Friday, May 20, 2005

Was Glenn Frey right? Is the heat on?

It's apparently "Be Cruel to the 19 Minutes Staff" week. Located as we are in Flagstaff, Arizona -- elevation 7000 feet -- we're generally immune from heavy-duty heat waves. And to be fair, I guess, the mid-to-upper 80s we're currently dealing with wouldn't qualify as a 'heavy duty heat wave' in many areas. But we're a mere 92,999,999 miles from the sun - a mile closer than most of the country, and dealing with somewhat less oxygen here, so 88 degrees feels pretty darn hot.

This is especially cruel because I hate hot weather. Easy to say when it's 88 degrees, but I hated hot weather when we had three feet of snow on the ground, and I hated hot weather in January of 1998, when I bunked down on the floor of my office for 9 days while my part of the northeast was slammed by an ice storm. When I lived in southern Minnesota a few years back, a co-worker and I routinely went in on a hotel room, rather than suffer through stifling heat in our respective, un-air conditioned apartments.

And it's especially cruel because my daily commute is done in an '87 Volkswagen equipped with a currently non-functional air conditioner. This wouldn't be so bad, except that the passenger side window is also currently non-functional, as well. And it's, of course, powered by steam, which means that I continually have to feed coal into the boiler car trailing behind.

It's particularly cruel, too, because my normal 7-minute commute would get me to my pleasantly air conditioned office. However, the air conditioning at 19 Minutes World Headquarters chose yesterday to go on its summer vacation. So filling in, until the crack HVAC squad can crawl up into the ceiling, is a vintage table fan rescued from my wife's grandmother's garage. (Can I call her a grandmother-in-law? Does that sound as ridiculous as it looks?) Still, the promotional digital thermometer from the BBC on my desk tells me it's currently 78.6 degrees. Seventy-eight-point-four would be one thing, but seventy-eight-point-six is completely unacceptable.

I realize this may seem a trivial complaint. There are people each year who die as a result of heatwaves. Global warming has impacts that extend far beyond pushing my anti-perspirant envelope. Inncoent eggs fry on sidewalks.

And yet this pernicious heat claws its way into my consciousness, seizing my brain, reminding me of, god help me, an old Andy Rooney column, in which he recalled sneaking out of his Army barracks during heat waves to steal huge blocks of ice and make ice water for his fellow soldiers. He wrote that to this day (or to like 1982, when he wrote the column), he always feels for people living through heat waves, and wishes he could bring them ice water.

It's a nice thought. But frankly, I'd be happier if he could fix the damn air conditioning in my car.

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