Mike Wilson column: When you’re hot, you’re hot!

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 15, 2021

By Mike Wilson

No, not that great Jerry Reed song from the “Smokey and the Bandit” soundtrack, though I do love his pickin’. I refer instead to my unique ability to generate record heat waves wherever I go, an unfortunate skill since I am happiest hunting at about 25 degrees. I just heard on the radio this morning that Boston was about to experience an unprecedented 97-degree high on a single-digit date in June, and I knew immediately it was because my wife and I had casually discussed the possibility of visiting Cape Cod soon…

In 1987, attracted somewhat by the relative cool of the Northeast, we decided to show our daughters our colleges in Massachusetts and then visit Maine and Quebec for the first time. We took care to pack plenty of sweaters and knit caps. Everything went fine until we arrived in Quebec City for you-know-what. One distinct memory is getting ice cream cones and then stepping over to survey the St. Lawrence River. A hot and brisk south wind melted our cones before we got there and blew the drippings all over our clothes. The children didn’t particularly enjoy the stickiness.

When I moved from Virginia to Salisbury in 1993, to be honest I thought I had gone to hell. The people were nice enough, but that July featured daily highs around 100 and no rain for quite a while. We bought a couple of young crape myrtles in pots to decorate the corners of our west-oriented deck. When we decided to visit Blowing Rock for a weekend but had no one to tend them, we returned to find sad, desiccated sticks worthy of a World War I movie set. I believe that is one of the hottest months on record in the state.

In 2006, seduced by guarantees that English hotels did not need air conditioning, we booked a quaint, older hotel for my youngest daughter and ourselves. Unfortunately, the first night the suffering commenced. I would go down to the basement breakfast room after a miserable night already red-faced and drenched in sweat. It didn’t help at all that our hosts kept an electric skillet full of hot grease at the ready for frying eggs in that non-ventilated space. One morning, our Indian hostess pointed at me when I entered and gleefully exclaimed, “Ha, ha, ha! Look at him!” I was glad I could amuse the crowd there. A few days later the headlines indicated that we were in the hottest week since record-keeping began — in the 1600s.

In 2010, I had the privilege of taking 29 students to study in Madrid, where we were fortunate to be able to participate in the national joy of advancing through the World Cup to eventual victory, all during our time there. Now the weather is always hot in Madrid in the summer, but it turns out this summer was exceptional. I would rise early to take the subway to the campus. I would instantly start to sweat walking to the metro stop and continue during my ride in the stifling car. When I emerged at the university stop, the dry air would dry out my polo such that there was a white stripe right across the top of my belly. One ingenious student looked up the words needed to call me “Profesor Salado” (salty). The news soon began to focus on record heat, naturally. I vowed I would never be victimized again, at least by salty polos!

In 2014, we returned to Madrid, and this time I was ready. I had found white polos at Cabela’s on sale for $11.99 and ordered eight of them. I took along an extra red shirt for laundry day. On one of those ninth days, I approached a student at our meeting place at the entrance of the Royal Naval Museum and tapped her on the shoulder. She screamed and then said, “Sorry, I thought you would be wearing white.” Did I mention the record cool of that particular month?  The best-laid plans…

Mike Wilson is chairman of Modern Foreign Languages at Catawba College.

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