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Friday Takeaway: Keeping Our Cool

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Friday, July 20, 2018

We’re in it now, folks. These are the dog days. Week after week of hot, muggy afternoons and airless, humid nights. I was not built for this kind of heat; I feel myself wilting along with half of the plants in my garden beds. It’s the time of year when the only thing to be done is to drive to the nearest swimming hole — or frigid movie theater. It’s weather worth escaping. 

The weather feels like a metaphor. Temperatures have been steadily rising, figuratively and literally. I can feel it in the news, in the op-eds, on the hot, sticky pavement that we keep marching on. More than anywhere else, I’m feeling it in tense, increasingly panicky conversation, both in person and online. After Trump and Putin staged their jaw-dropping, surreal joint press conference in Helsinki, my Facebook feed was a sea of exclamation points as my friends’ heads collectively exploded. 

But back to keeping cool. When the temperature soars, there are tried-and-true ways to beat the heat. We can go old-timey and try closing windows and drapes during the hottest hours of the day, then open them up again at night. We can face our box fans so that they propel hot air out of the house rather than sucking it back in. What else can we do? Help me. I’ve been trying to write this essay all day, and I keep writing the same paragraph and deleting it, again and again, because it’s 95 degrees, and the world is burning, and I’m not just talking about summer weather.

Let’s try this again. 

Here’s a beat-the-heat tip: Eat  two popsicles at once. A friend of mine swears by this trick. Sit in front of your oscillating fan in a darkened living room and double-fist your frozen treats. By the time you finish the one in your right hand, the popsicle in your left hand will be almost slushy, but you won’t have to get up again to eat it. Or maybe try freezing your underwear. Or, hey, sleep on a screened-in porch. Don’t have one? Sneak onto your neighbor’s porch. 

I’m kind of out of ideas for dealing with this weather. The good news? I actually have AC now, and it’s a game-changer. I walk home from downtown in the sweltering sun knowing that when I open my front door, I’ll step into cool serenity. It is worth every penny that I’ll be paying over the next seven years for the privilege. And a privilege it is to be able to leave the heat behind me, to pretend that what’s happening out there doesn’t affect me. If I’m not sweating, does it matter if someone else is? If ICE is beating down doors and ripping away babies — wait. What are we talking about? 

The weather. It’s hot — middle-of-July hot. This weekend will be a little bit cooler, and we’ll all exhale a sigh of relief. But don’t be fooled — a different kind of storm is brewing. It’s just a question of when it will hit and how powerful it will be. 

Naomi Shulman’s work has appeared in many publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Yankee Magazine, as well as on NEPR and WBUR. Follow her on Twitter: @naomishulman.