I have grown weak.
Thirty-four years ago, just after graduating college, I moved into an un-air conditioned apartment in Decatur, Ga., just outside Atlanta. That summer, Atlanta had a record heat wave in which the high temperature topped 90 degrees for weeks on end. Dozens died of heatstroke; even by Atlanta and Georgia standards, it was brutal.
But we made do. My roommate and I had two, maybe three, box fans, which we’d place against the window screens and turn up full blast. I slept on top of my sheets. I ate a lot of ice cream and drank a lot of icy root beers. We attended Braves games in a half-empty Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and laughed with our friends at the antics of Omar Moreno and Ken Oberkfell. I spent that summer working as a front desk clerk at the Hyatt Regency downtown — suit and tie required — and tried to stay in air-conditioned comfort as much as possible.
I remember complaining — who doesn’t complain in a heat wave? — but, having spent three of my four college years in un-air conditioned dorms, and having grown up in the swamp of New Orleans, bearing with the heat was second nature. For years — for decades — hot summers didn’t bother me.
Now I live in eastern Pennsylvania. For the last few days or so, the temperature has topped 90 degrees. Worse, the lows haven’t really gotten below 70. But my house is air conditioned — not well, having been built in 1907 with the HVAC a much later add-on, but still — and the wave is expected to break by tonight after one more heat advisory from the National Weather Service.
I’m already sick of it.
Maybe it’s my office, which is off a sunroom and is, perhaps, the hottest room in the house. Maybe it’s this crummy Covid year, in which we’ve all been trapped for too long in our homes. Maybe it’s just me, having spent most of my life dealing with the sun by ducking into someplace cool, as one does when you’ve been raised in the post-Willis Carrier South.
All I know is, I can’t wait until Friday, when the low will be — get this — 67 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s supposed to be 62 a week from Thursday!
To my younger self: You would be embarrassed. I’m so sorry.