These dwindling days of summer have been sizzlers. As one of our daughters said, “It’s been a good week—for putting your head in the freezer.”
The sun rises, the green flag snaps and the heat and humidity both race to 90 in perfect stride. Those two—they stick together. And to everybody else, too.
Like most people melting beneath the final scorch of summer, we enjoy dwelling on exactly how miserable we are.
We have a fancy digital indoor/outdoor thermometer that tells us the heat and humidity, but its accuracy and precision lack drama. For maximum misery, we rely on the old mercury thermometer mounted outside a kitchen window in direct sun.
“Look at that. It’s 120 again this morning,” I marvel.
“Those weather people never can get it right,” the husband says.
Of course, once it hits 120 with matching humidity to boot (and no, I don’t know how you can have humidity above 100 percent, but I know we’ve weathered it) the tomatoes get all funky and billions of teeny, tiny white bugs invade the herbs. Ordinarily, I’d fight back on the bug infestation, but it’s too blasted hot, which is why I just planted a white flag between the oregano and the thyme and yelled, “You win! Eat your little organic hearts out.”
As much as we enjoy being miserable, the bad thing about complaining about the heat is that it inevitably ignites a longstanding family competition. And really, when it comes to suffering blistering heat, you’re nobody unless you’re the somebody who’s been more miserable than everybody.
“It’s not just the heat, it’s the humidity that makes this so bad,” someone says. “It’s not like a dry heat. Now a dry heat—”
The minute someone mentions dry heat in a “that’s not so bad” way you might as well strike a match next to a gasoline can. The wing of our family that has lived in southwest dry heat is not about to be undone with a flip dismissal of their sweat and suffering.
“You don’t know what heat is until you’ve survived Texahoma heat,” they fire back in unison.
“I’ll give you it’s like a blow dryer on high heat in your face,” I say.
“Blow dryer nothing; it’s like the dryer at the automatic car wash. Or the heat blast from a jet engine.”
Someone swiftly counters: “Yes, but with the heat and humidity combined you’ve got your ‘real temperature’ and your ‘feels like’ temperature—”
Back and forth we go, carrying on about which is worse, the dry heat of the Southwest, the stifling humidity of the Deep South or the suffocating heat and humidity of the Midwest.
Finally, someone says, “Why don’t we move outside?”
“Why don’t we?” the husband says. “Looks like it may be rather pleasant after that storm blew through. The thermometer has dipped to 115.”
“You all go ahead,” I say. “I’ll be right there.”
I just need a few seconds to stick my head in the freezer.