It seems to me that literature always waxes effusive about summer. Everyone is supposed to love summer. Picnics, barbeques, days at the beach. It sounds idyllic.
Me, I hate summer. Give me fall any day: a nip in the air, the trees turning orange and yellow.
Or spring, with brand new green leaves and flowers starting to bring color back into the landscape.
Summer is too damn hot.
OK, so it probably wasn’t all that hot in the places where people originally wrote paeans to summer. It’s rarely hot in England or most of Europe. And in the US, the people who raved about summer probably lived in New England.
But I grew up outside of Houston, lived in Washington, DC, for many years, and currently live in Austin. And I’m here to tell you that summer sucks.
The forecast high for today in Austin is 98. That’s lower than the triple digits we had earlier in the week. And for the next ten days, the high is going to range from 98 to 101.
This is not a heat wave. This is just August. It’s like this every year.
In fact, this has been a mild summer for us. I’m not sure it hit 90 at all in May and there were lots of days in June where the temperature didn’t get out of the high 80s.
A bad summer is like 2011, when we set the record for triple digit days: 90 of ‘em, starting in May. Accompanied by the one-year drought of record.
I’m used to it. I grew up in Texas, and I know about acclimating to the heat. And even though the temperatures are higher, it’s not as oppressive in the summer in Austin as it is in DC, because we get breezes here and the humidity is lower. In DC, an afternoon rain makes it hotter; in Austin it cools things off. (We had one on Monday and it brought the temperature down from 100 to the mid-80s. Almost nippy.)
But just because I understand it doesn’t mean I like it. I don’t like it. August in Austin in like February in northern climes – miserable. The extremes are just different. In February up north you don’t go out of the house without bundling up in everything you own. In August down here, you put on as little as possible and try to keep to the shade.
Heat is dangerous: Winter seems worse and storms are frightening, but heat waves kill more people. We do better at dealing with it in the south, because we’re used to it, but I suspect it takes a subtle toll on people’s health even here.
Yes, we have air conditioning down here. Too much AC, if the truth be told – buildings are cooled for men in business suits (and why they insist on wearing those things in summer I do not comprehend), so women, who dress sensibly in light dresses, have to carry sweaters with them.
In Austin, we’re more likely to hit capacity on the power grid in August than in winter, with all that AC running full blast.
But AC everywhere is a relatively new phenomenon. Sixty years ago many people in Austin – or even Houston – didn’t have it at home. The neighborhood where I live was built back then. My house came with central heat, but the AC was added later. This neighborhood has huge yards, because the kids were kicked outside to play all day. In the sun.
The sun is our real problem. Since we hit the upper 90s, it’s been relatively dry here, and breezes have been common. Sitting in the shade outside is not unpleasant.
There’s just not enough shade. The oak wilt took out a lot of our trees. Standing in the sun – not to mention working in it or exercising in it – gets unpleasant very quickly.
It makes me lethargic. I don’t want to do anything more taxing than reading a murder mystery. I should get up and go to Barton Springs for a swim. The water is cold and there are still a lot of trees in the park over there.
But to get to Barton Springs I have to leave the house, drive in traffic over there, and park far enough away to have a hot walk to the pool. And a hot walk back.
So I’m just going to have another iced coffee. (All us Austin coffee drinkers know how to use the toddy system to make very good iced coffee.)
I plan to perk up in October.