• 68°

Road works, Walmart and summer heat wave

The song “Heat Wave” was not the inspiration for today’s column. That song has a “beat,” but not so those oppressive temperatures of late, seemingly “frozen” periodically for days on end in the thermometer’s upper range.

Meteorologists talk about the “seesaw” of beginning season temperatures. The recent heat waves seem comparable to a seesaw in which children of opposite size are at the opposing seats, bringing all motion to a halt, skewed in one direction.

It also now seems as if the “dog days” have become a “dog summer.”

City workers recently opened a hole on a nearby street to work on the “plumbing,” with a tent for shade (“Only mad dogs, city workers, and Englishmen go out in the mid-day sun!”).

The workmen had piled up a mini-mountain of clay outside their tent. The sod still looked cool from its recent subterranean home, but parts of that tomato-red slope were already being blanched dry and orange by the solar heat and light.

Several men were working in that hole, and I wondered if the earth’s cool breath gave them a kind of air-conditioned relief from below.

I thought about the Linville Caverns guide stating the temperature there is always around 55 degrees.(The same is said of the grave, too.)

I recall reading about a sanatorium being built over a rock fissure connected to Luray Caverns, providing cool air for the patients’ respiratory illnesses, long before the advent of modern air conditioning.

At another section of roadwork, only hard hats provided shade, with white hats outnumbering those of yellow. White is more reflective, like those bright, alabaster pith helmets of 19th century British colonial days.

One resourceful city worker parked his city vehicle in the shadow of an overpass for his mid-day lunch break. He was getting some water from one of those large, orange, water barrel coolers always associated with “public works.”

In a Food Lion parking lot, a highly reflective piece of fiery red tinsel caught the corner of my eye, making me first think the heat wave had ignited the asphalt. I don’t know the reason for the tinsel’s presence (possibly blowing around since Christmas) but it made an impression just as timely for this heat as that of its impression in December.

On that day, just a few days before the Fourth of July, the air seemed as hot as a firecracker, but more like a chronic “slow burn” instead of something acute.

Earlier in the day, I had offered our science museum visitors a chance to spray the iguana, but upon entering the building, they appeared in more need of misting than the lizard.

The visitors remarked on the coolness of the museum’s air, and I thought about an August 1981 Carowinds trip when my daughter Rachel was around 4. Everyone was dying to get into the Broadway-style shows, not just because of the music, but because of the air-conditioned relief. I remember looking down at Rachel’s red little face and praying for the speedy arrival of the next show time.

Reminded of this, after work, I headed to Walmart on that most recent unbearable day. I have air conditioning, but in summer, the local Walmart’s air is kept at semi-freezer level.

As I looked up from the parking lot, it seemed as if the blue haze between the clouds was almost as solid as the clouds themselves. It was maintaining those cumulous lumps at “arm’s length” (for them), preventing their clumping into that anvilar shape which brings lightning, thunder, rain and summertime cooling.

Entering Walmart with a sense of resignation concerning the “sights” awaiting me there, I steeled myself (much as Houdini would tighten his abdominal muscles before receiving the gut punch).

Concerning those “visions,” I will paraphrase Churchill and say: “Never has ‘so very little’ been asked to cover ‘so very much’!”

And in a similar vein, even though the Germans had some really big rail guns in both World Wars, “bigger” is not always “better.”

In Walmart, my eyes would repeatedly surely suffer “sore abuse”; but the invigorating, quasi-frozen store air on that sweltering day would make the sacrifice seem worthwhile.


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