08 July, 2010

Hot Child, Summer in the City

It's hot. It's hot hot, the kind of heat that doesn't cool off at night and causes you to lay awake and contemplate the deeper mysteries of life. Will I be successful? Is there a God? Why didn't I buy a bigger fan? It's the kind of heat that makes anyone standing within three feet of you be viewed as seriously encroaching upon your personal space, and the kind of heat that my mom complains about if she were to catch you wearing anything more than a tee shirt in this kind of weather.

"What is that? Why are you wearing that?
"This hoodie? It was a little chilly inside, Mom..."
"I don't care! Take it off, I'm hot!"

The ability to generate my own body heat is not something my mother passed down to me.

For nearly ten months of the year New England is not what one would consider to be a tropical climate. We have long expanses of winter, a few weeks of a chilly and muddy spring, some stretches of short but brilliant real summer, and then we dive into a too-quick fall and another long expanse of winter. Winter feels like it lasts thirty months, and it gets longer every year. And while there are different changes sometimes, that's more or less how it is. At least as far as I remember it.

New England's inhabitants, like me, have been raised since birth to be prepared for drastic swings in temperature. People used to joke, "Don't like the weather? Stick around for another five minutes!" because people like to repeat weather anecdotes as though they are fresh and funny. They usually aren't, but the weather does have a tendency to shift pretty quickly. My professor Glenn once said, "If you're cold, you're stupid" in terms of being prepared for the weather. While I'm not sure that Glenn grew up around these parts, he sure is a quick student to the weather of the Northeast coastline.

Two weeks back I was contentedly wearing my skinny jeans and sneakers with socks, perhaps even a light jacket at night if I was feeling a little chilly and trying to coordinate an outfit. (By this I mean trying to not wear a tee-shirt to a bar. Again.) That outfit is but a distant memory after these last few nights where the thermometer barely docked below 80, with the mercury soaring up to 95 during the day. It's hot hot.

I'm sure others might disapprove, but because I am fully prepared to death-grip New England's  fleetingly few beautiful weeks of summer, I gaily and with song welcome these days of 90-degree weather. After six months of hard winter, we've earned it, people. We have earned it.

Both metaphorically and literally, I embrace the warm weather. Because my arms are forced into the confines of long sleeve shirts and because our society strongly enforces me to wear pants for too many months of the year, when warm weather finally hits I spurn the idea of carrying warmer clothes with me, just in case. And why should I? All year long I've been longing for this kind of warmth harder than azaleas on the tundra, so why would I want to separate myself from the elements? I love the elements! They are awesome. I love the sun! It is bright and beautiful. I love the humidity! It makes my hair curly and allows me to sleep without a blanket at night. (Which I would do if I didn't have a quiet but real fear of vampires). But things I don't love (besides vampires)? Air conditioning.

Air conditioning is stupid. There, I said it. Yes, air conditioning can be useful and relieving and I'm sure it helps to save lives somewhere in the world. I get it. But while I am, admittedly, very stubborn, I thoroughly dislike the unnatural feeling of being inside an air conditioned office building and shivering while a heat wave rages on outside. When I need to wear pants and a cardigan inside a building lest I become hypothermic, and then have to leave aforementioned office building after a socially acceptable time to deal with the 90-degree heat radiating up from the sidewalk underneath me, a little part of me dies inside. Dies. Being cold during a heat wave just seems so fundamentally wrong, and more than a little cruel. This is Massachusetts: I'm cold ten months of the year. Don't take away my two months of glory.

Therefore, I have undertaken my own personal stand against air conditioning. It being the middle of July, I refuse to carry a sweater with me in anticipation of the inevitable Arctic breezes from the temperature-moderated buildings of the seemingly sweltering office workers of Boston who crank their all-too-effective air conditioning units. Even the commuter rail isn't safe from over-eager air conditioners that, with great intentions I'm sure, try to keep their passengers nice and cool by lowering the thermostat to mid-March temperatures. No really, no thank you. If I'm on a train and shivering in shorts and a shirt, and then can look out the window and see a man in shorts and no shirt who is visibly sweating, I am not going to make your day pleasant, monsieur train conductor. Even if you have a cool hat and let me ride for free. (Just kidding, Conductor Seth who probably doesn't read this blog. But if you do, I think you are incredibly nice and thank you for all those free rides! Now please turn down your air conditioning.)

It should be every person's right to decide how hot or cold they want to be. I will dress appropriately for the weather; I can trust others to do the same. And while in Texas there may be a definitive need for air conditioning, this here is the Northeast: don't thrust your air conditioning edicts on me. After 23 winters, all I want is some good alone time with that familiar stranger, the sun. 

Aside from the cardigan hassles, you may ask yourself what effect these heat waves have on my day-to-day life. (And I shall tell you.) This recent temperature spike has had unanticipated detrimental effects on my apartment decorations. As I am only a full year out of college and I haven't learned better/ can't afford better, many (...all) of my photos and frames are hung on the walls with sticky tack. My sticky tack color of choice is blue. Sticky tack helps me to hang my collection of postcards that have been sent to me throughout the years, my crazy photos from wild nights in college (...Sawyer Library), the Twilight New Moon poster behind my closet door (because I am secretly a pre-teen) and my Red Sox banner (because I am trying to blend in with my fellow homies. Let's go, Big Daddy! ...Big Papi? Whatever.) Sticky tack is rather awesome, because even though it's not actually all that sticky (misnomer!) it has an amazing capacity to temporarily suspend seemingly too heavy objects, like the thick cardboard-like Jason Mraz poster on the wall above my bed. This poster-hanging tack worked for about 10 months, which is a pretty decent track record. But even sticky tack has its failings.

Now, I love Jason Mraz with all that I love. Because of these strong feelings over the years, one or two fantasies may have crept into my late-night dreams. For example, there's this one that involves Jason Mraz falling into my bed. It was a great dream. But this fantasy was less cool when a) Jason was a 2-D poster and b) it didn't even happen to me, but to my boyfriend. It was one of the hottest nights to hit Boston so far, and even the fans circulating air around the room felt oppressive. Allegedly, the sticky factor that is oh-so-crucial to its name was compromised in the heat, causing the tack to degrade and the poster attached to the tack to fall directly on top of my boyfriend's face. No one was more surprised than Dan, let me tell you. While I did feel a little sorry, inside I was just the smallest bit jealous. Because even in paper form, it's still Jason Mraz. And that's enviable.

So now, with Jason tucked safely underneath the bed until the heat wave passes and the sticky tack can restored to its previous tacky-ness, and the sheet tucked securely over my body (lest I leave my neck exposed for vampires), I can't even sleep because it's so hot. Irony. But there is something rather soothing about the whir of air conditioning units buzzing in the night air outside of my window. If I close my eyes hard enough I can almost imagine that the noise is really just the crash of a wave hitting the shore line. A constant, metallic-sounding wave. Or it's a swarm of bees, which is slightly more disconcerting but still an interesting thought-experiment to undertake. Living downtown and listening as everyone cranks up their air conditioning units is at least an amusing way to pass the time until I can fall asleep. Yes, maybe I'm a little jealous that my neighbors are cool enough to actually sleep in this weather, but that doesn't mean I'm going to bring a cardigan with me on the commuter rail tomorrow. I've got my pride.