Scenes From An Oven

For reasons of bad timing, today I found myself with an invitation to pick up some personal belongings at work at my desk between 11AM and 11:45AM, which I did after doing a bit of work at home dealing with technical issues. When the weather is somewhere around 116 degrees or so at the middle of the day with minimum shadow, the experience of driving and walking around and carrying things is less than desirable. I saw some construction workers nearby working on a site where there used to be a field of grass [1] next to my office location and when I went to get some ice water and lunch, I saw someone doing landscaping work. I had some respect and admiration for people willing and able to work outside, because even walking and driving was pretty seriously dangerous for me. Indeed, the weather was so hot that even with the air conditioning going on at full blast the air was hot and it felt like hot air was coming from the engine. And the weather outside was so oppressively hot that I could feel myself getting sunburned in real time from the UV rays outside and couldn’t find a cool place for most of the day, sadly.

Nor was that all. As I write it is about 70 degrees or so with a nice breeze and it feels wonderful outside. But as I was literally being baked by the sun through the course of the day, I pondered how it is that one gets the energy to do much of everything when it is so beastly hot. I think it needs to be said that I have spent a great deal of my life living in hot climates–I grew up in Central Florida, and have spent summers in such places as Ghana and Thailand, so I am by no means unfamiliar with toasty places. That said, in the places where I spent hot summers, there was usually the knowledge that such places were hot in the construction of homes so that air conditioning or at least active fans were continually present to keep the heat at bay as much as possible. This is not to say that it was always easy to manage the heat, only that the heat was something that was recognized as a risk. This is not the case when an area like Portland has temperatures in the 110’s. One doesn’t expect the dry heat of the Arabian peninsula or Sahara in a place like Portland, and buildings are not planned accordingly. Perhaps that ought to change, though. If the act of going outside for a few minutes or sitting in one’s bedroom doing work is enough to risk heatstroke, clearly something needs to be done.

It is perhaps predictable that people in the grips of such beastly heat would seek air conditioned places. During the evening I went to dinner at my usual Monday haunt, and I was struck both by the fact that I was far more thirsty even than usual, perhaps because I had been sweating buckets all day, but also by the fact that there was a strong disconnect between the obviousness of seeking air conditioned places to eat, drink, and read for a couple of hours that I and many other people in the area sought and the serious understaffing in such places that were unprepared for the masses of people with the same idea in mind as I had. I had a conversation with the bartender, who brought my second round of ice water and iced tea to my table, about the fact that the restaurant appeared to be very understaffed, something I did not hold against them. When I was done with that I did some more errands, and went grocery shopping, even picking up ice cream for my roommate, who requested it. It was surprising to me how few people were in the grocery store trying to keep cool for a little while, but interesting to see that a great many people I saw today had the sense not to wear masks.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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