I wander the mall, or what we count as a mall, walking wide, quiet corridors in the early afternoon.
I’m looking for loiterers, people who look like they’re escaping this oppressive heat in the cool of an air-conditioned shopping mall.
Because there’s an “excessive heat warning” threatening heat index temperatures of above 105 degrees and here in these hills, where snow falls thick and heavy all winter long and the danger of frost isn’t over until Memorial Day, there’s a lot of people who don’t have air conditioning.
I find them outside K-Mart: three old men sitting side-by-side on a bench; one old woman just around the corner, shaking her head now and then, laughing at their boyish bravado.
“I’m writing about the heat,” I tell them, and the first, his hand shaking and his head bobbing, won’t have it.
“It’s summer,” he points out. “It’s supposed to be hot.”
He says who needs air conditioning, and his neighbors say sure, that’s why he spends all day every day at the mall, because he doesn’t need air conditioning, and they all laugh at him and he smiles placidly.
Nope. Grew up without it, doesn’t need it now.
They come for the socializing as much as the cool, they say, though they’ve parked themselves under the vent in the ceiling. They talk about politics, and death, and weather, and watch the world go by – or the women, if you ask the man in the middle.
And they’re more than happy to talk as long as I want, and point out that if the paper gets any smaller it won’t be there at all; but when I have enough to color my dry story of forecasts and tips and how-not-to-die quotes, and I ask for their names, we reach a dead-end.
“Nope. Don’t want my name in the paper.” He’s still smiling placidly and his head is still bobbing but I’m stuck.
And it’s the woman around the corner who has the answer, and so I identify all three by first name and home town. I’m amazed that my editors accept that, leaving off last names for absolutely no valid reason.
But how do you argue with three old men on a bench outside K-Mart? And they were the only ones there.
But regardless of their bravado, or matter-of-fact view of life, it is hot here. It’s dangerously hot. The weather service yesterday gave us a heat index of 105 and above; and the air, even in those first morning hours, is thick and hard to breath. As the sun rises the humidity catches its light in a haze rolling up to the hills.
At night we put fans in the windows to bring in the cooler air, but it’s not much. We got the house all the way down to 80 degrees this morning. We spend the afternoon under ceiling fans, and dip indignant ferrets in ice water. They’re not made for this weather and temperatures in the high 80s can kill them and it’s too close for comfort.
They seem to know how to handle it though, sleeping in dark closets or desk drawers, letting their own temperatures sink lower and lower even as the house temps rise. We put a frozen bottle of water in their cage with them.
This should be the last miserable afternoon, and I hope a storm sweeps through soon, breaking the pressure and turning that humidity into falling rain that cools us all off. The forecast drops back below 90 degrees tomorrow. I hope it’s true.
because it is summer and I love sunshine and I’ll take heat any day over the cold of winter.
But this is a little excessive, don’t you think? Especially for those of us without air conditioning.