Sunday, July 24, 2011

How do you feel? I feel hot.

"It's Africa-hot. Tarzan couldn't take this kind of heat."
- "Biloxi Blues"

It's uncomfortable for the humans. Animals and other creatures don't seem to mind much. We, however, are fragile creatures. Lizards can crawl around on rocks in the sun and not a drop of sweat. In fact, I don't know of any other animals who sweat like we humans. And certainly none who sweat like I do.

The strange thing is, our body temperature is almost 99 degrees, and yet temperatures in the 90s bother us and make us reach for the thermostat.

The temperature yesterday got to 102 degrees. That's right. The weather people said it was a "real feel" of 116. That means that it feels like it's 116 degrees, as though we're supposed to know what that feels like. It's already 102 and we're supposed to think that it's even hotter? What would it feel like if it was 116? We'll never really know what the "real feel" is because we never really feel it.

Today, it's 92 with a heat index (real feel) of 102. So, I guess if I go outside now I'll know what 102 feels like. Since it was 102 yesterday, that's what 102 would feel like if it was 92 and ... oh, I don't know what any of it is supposed to feel like. It's hot, OK? That's what it feels like.

The local supermarket had covers over the exposed milk and eggs because the air conditioner couldn't keep the place cool enough to keep the milk and eggs cold and fresh. When that happens, I'd say it's time to throw in the towel and declare some sort of state of emergency. But more than that, it makes me wonder what our parents' generation did when it got this hot. It did get this hot for them, and they didn't have air conditioned cars and workplaces. Their milk and eggs were probably exposed to deadly heat. They also didn't have the luxury of regular showers and advanced hygiene products. It must have smelled pretty bad too.

I wonder if we have softened as a society. The only time we have to do without artificial temperatures is when we are walking to our car or outdoors for some reason. In the 1950s people used to flock to movie theaters that had those signs that said AIR CONDITIONED with the little icicles hanging off the letters. Those were great times.

I grew up in a house without air conditioning, and it wasn't until I moved into my spacious 700 square foot condo that I became accustomed to air conditioning. In my youth, I'd throw a fan on and lie down for a while until the sun went down. That was before I discovered the luxury of expensive electric bills. Now, I flip the air on and it's 79 degrees inside. What a great life. I also think it has softened me and made me less able to adapt to the heat. I'm on the second floor, and without air conditioning it would be 90 degrees in here - and feel like 102.

Rather than appreciate the relative comfort, I wonder how much better my life is now than it was when I was a kid and we'd go through heat waves. And yes, it's hot, but I really couldn't tell you how it feels since I've managed to insulate myself from the outdoors during most of it. I run from my air conditioned workplace to my air conditioned car and air conditioned dwelling. I'm conditioned from the air. These past few days, I've been hunkered-in as though there was 2-feet of snow on the ground.

I cringe
when I have to endure an outdoor event in 90-degree temperatures and God forbid I go for more than a half hour without air conditioning. I have a ticket for Monday afternoon's Phillies game, and it would be worth the $32 for me to give the ticket to someone and find something to do indoors. When I go to games I look around, and I don't see many people suffering like I am. Invariably, some benevolent soul decides to mist the crowd. That's just what I need, more moisture. I feel better for about 30 seconds, then I look down and see that my scorecard is wet. Thanks, Phanatic.

So we endure the summer. We complain about the heat, much as we endure the winter and complain about the cold. It's the wind chill then. How it feels when the cold wind blows on us. I don't remember all this real feel and wind chill junk when I was a kid. Some scientist figured that we needed to be reminded how uncomfortable we are in extreme temperatures. I think that's part of the reason we complain more now than we used to.


howard said...

Allow me to don a tin foil hat for a second and wonder if the weather prognosticators who grace us with these indicators like "heat index" and "real feel" aren't getting a good bit of sponsorship from energy utilities and the hvac industry.

I remember a business professor who used to say the entire consumer economy rests on the marketer's ability to convince we are not happy with current circumstances.

That said, I don't recall any stretches of persistent, sustained heatwaves like those in recent years when I think back to my non-air-conditioned youth.

Anthony said...

Come to think of it, I've heard your "tin hat" theory before - so it's not just your tin hat! :) The same can be said for those winter storm predictions that get people out to the supermarket to stock up on stuff they'll never use. That's why Cecily Tynan gets top billing on Action News and they save the weather forecasts for last.

My profs at Widener were full of good info like that - particularly my economics professor. They see through all that stuff and get right to the point. Making us seem unhappy makes us buy things that we are told will make us happier - but we're still more unhappy. How's that work out for us?