Over Easy: A terrible, horrible, no good, very hot day

  • Dan Mackie (Courtesy photograph)

For the Valley News
Published: 7/26/2019 10:00:59 PM
Modified: 7/26/2019 10:00:50 PM

Last Saturday, which was hot as a summer paving job, began uneventfully. Since I was up early, my morning walk left me in fine fettle, although I could feel little pulses of heat as the sun poked over the horizon and began its warm-up routine.

Perhaps work crews stationed at the sun’s core, which is around 15 million degrees Celsius, had come by a supply of top-grade hydrogen. “Great day for nuclear fusion, boss,” I imagine an assistant manager calling out. “Turn it up to full blast,” the boss would reply.

Shortly after 9, I took the recycling to the garage, sliced open four bags of topsoil and spread the contents around, puttered to little effect in my garage and returned inside to eat a couple slices of French toast that my wife, Dede, had heroically prepared while complaining about the stickiness of the air.

I sat at the dining room table and sweated as if I’d been laying tracks for the transcontinental railroad.

It was going to be that kind of Saturday: a terrible, horrible, no good, very hot day.

It was the sort of day when TV weather people’s eyes open a little wider, even a little wilder, as they deliver alerts. “Please, please,” they plead, “do not practice the high hurdles during the hottest part of the day. Avoid shoveling coal into locomotive steam boilers. Postpone non-essential activities such as using flamethrowers, walking on red-hot coals or sunbathing on asphalt surfaces. Or, if you do, make sure you drink plenty of fluids.”

We coped as best we could. Fans to the right of us. Fans to the left of us. Still, sweat got the best of us.

What were we to do? Take lawn chairs and a book to one of the unnaturally chilly supermarkets? Occupy a walk-in beer cooler?

I thought about childhood remedies, when summer never oppressed us. There were lawn sprinklers when all else failed. But it might look unseemly for retirees to run through one. Also, extended sprinkler usage leads to slippery footing, a no-no for anyone of a certain age who’s averse to orthopedic consults.

Dede took to her bed, for the company of our sole air conditioner. “I have a good spy book going,” she told me. “There’s a Russian mole in the White House.” Hmm, were we talking fiction or nonfiction? I repaired to the living room with my laptop, took off my shirt and began work on this column. I disclose that not for salacious intent, but only to illustrate how oven-like it was. Be assured I usually write with full professional decorum.

Later I stole a few minutes for a nap, but snoozing in the heat is not restorative. You wake up in a state of confusion and drool as if you’d been dozing on a long-haul Greyhound.

Later on Saturday, we dragged ourselves to an air-conditioned car and headed to a spot where we could, as the saying goes, jump in a lake. Actually we tiptoed in, cautious as if there might be cold pockets in the water well into July. We found none.

We returned a couple hours later to the horror of The House That Wouldn’t Cool Down. It was over 90 degrees outside well into the evening. I don’t remember it staying 90 degrees outside well into the evening in the Upper Valley. I slouched on the couch and watched an old movie as a ceiling fan pushed hot air around. I developed a case of swamp neck under my chin. Yuck.

All we could do was pray for thunderstorms and cold fronts, which eventually did come to the rescue.

Two days later, it was sunny, with temperatures lingering around 80, and all was right with the world. Birds were making a racket outside, dogs looked happy to be taking walks. Morning chores were a breeze. If I could run the high hurdles, I might have set some up.

A neighbor told me recently that he thinks we have the best weather in the world. I would have called him delusional last Saturday, but by Wednesday I could see his point. It was lovely in the sun, lovely in the shade, lovely everywhere.

By my calculation, we have utterly perfect weather here around 12 days a year. That leaves plenty of time to savor the best of them, and to await the return of our meteorological ideal.

Ours is not an everyday paradise, but we get just enough of a taste of perfection to allow dreamers and skeptics both to carry on with hope, or something close to it.

Moreover, we get to critique Mother Nature’s handiwork 353 days a year, examining flaws great and small. We can be picky as copy editors, fastidious as tax examiners. We are satisfied with the weather, but not overly so. It’s OK, not bad, all right.

I think this suits the New England character to a T.

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Dan Mackie lives in West Lebanon. He can be reached at dan.mackie@yahoo.com.

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