Keeping a cool head (and other parts) in this heat

Published 12:37 am Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Oh, the humidity!

It’s been hot. It’s hot. It’s going to get hotter. Mix high temperatures — if not triple-digit temperatures, then close to them — with eastern North Carolina’s humid Julys and Augusts and you have a combination that saps one’s energy and leave’s one desiring to do little except stay cool.

As sure as watermelons become a hot commodity in July and August, it’s just as sure that hot, humid days arrive to torment us. After many years, I decided all I can do about the weather during this time of year is complain about it. I can’t change it. If I could control the weather, I’d be richer than Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Donald Trump combined.

Most of us understand that a high level of humidity makes the temperature feel hotter than it is. When meteorologists begin talking about the heat index during July and August, expect those air-conditioning units to begin working overtime.

The heat index combines air temperature and relative humidity (we have enough problems with humidity without any of its relatives, thank you) in an attempt to determine the human-perceived equivalent temperature, according to Wikipedia. Forget the heat index. Any temperature above 90 degrees in July and August in eastern North Carolina equates to hot. I’m talking hot, as in sweat rolling down one’s back. I’m talking hot, as in cows giving evaporated milk, or worse, powdered milk. I’m talking hot, as in time to toss ice into swimming pools.

Ice in swimming pools? Yes. I’ve seen it done. One hot summer during the mid 1990s, when I was in Virginia, a woman stopped by the icehouse near downtown Fredericksburg. While an ice sculptor was transforming a block of ice into a crystal-like centerpiece for a banquet that night, the woman placed an order for two giant blocks of ice. If my memory serves me correctly, each block of ice weighed in at close to 300 pounds.

The ice blocks were on their way to the swimming pool in her backyard. Seems as if they water in the pool was too warm for a swim party planned for later that day. She drove away in her station wagon, with the two ice blocks going along for the ride.

Curious as to what would happen to the ice once she arrived home, I asked, “Who’s going to unload the ice?”

“What do you think my husband is for?” she joked.

Not only did the woman keep her cool, but so did her pool.

If this coming weekend is going to be as hot as predicted, I could find myself trying to locate one of those old claw-foot bathtubs about two feet deep. If found, I could fill it with water, five bags of ice and myself. I also could fill myself with ice-cold diet root beer and cantaloupe that’s been in the refrigerator for three days.

As the mercury rises and the heat index climbs, I’ll be looking for ways to lower the temperature around me. Perhaps this is the weekend to spend most of the day at the movies, letting the theater owner pay for the electricity to keep me cool.

I just won’t buy any popcorn. The prices charged for popcorn and an ice-cold diet soda at the movies are enough to make anyone hot under the collar.

I believe I’ve got this sizzling, sweltering summer under control.

No sweat. Well, perhaps a little.

Mike Voss covers the city of Washington for the Washington Daily News. Should temperatures near or reach triple digits this weekend, he’s prepared to watch “The Zookeeper” all weekend at Cinema 7. He’ll be especially interested in trading places with any polar bear or penguin that may be in the movie.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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