A last glimpse of civilization.
You might think that a middle-aged man such as myself would have already taken to heart this rather obvious advice, but I should like to reiterate a helpful suggestion, as much for myself as for anyone else. Avoid unfamiliar shortcuts. Especially when you're walking on a cloudless day when the temperature is 90° and meteorologists are warning everyone that it feels like 98°. Even if you're traveling within otherwise very familiar territory.
I learned this last Wednesday as I set out for my community's 4th of July parade intending to document our youngest daughter's debut appearance with her high school marching band. Melinda had told me precisely where she would be in the band formation, and I planned on walking the mile or so down to a corner where I would have a decent vantage point. I arrived before the parade had reached that spot, and rather than stand still among the sweaty populace in the blistering heat, I decided to keep walking along the parade route until I met the advancing marchers. This turned out to be an excellent bit of luck, as it brought me near an underpass that I otherwise would not have thought to surmount.
When I was a young teenager, I had the opportunity to make a few bucks mowing a lawn a few miles from our house. The homeowner was out of town and didn't want the yard to get overgrown in his absence. My father drove me there and helped me get the mower started. As I began to tackle the tall grass, Dad yelled over the sputtering mower that he would return to pick me up in an hour or so, and then he backed out of the driveway and left.
It was a particularly hot summer day, and the afternoon sun shone mercilessly upon the unshaded lawn. Rivulets of sweat began to trickle from my forehead before I had cleared more than a few yards. The grass was taller than I would have liked, causing me to advance slowly. I pushed forward a little faster, eager to accomplish the chore as quickly as I could. A few feet further, the motor abruptly died. It was not a good sign, I decided, wiping my forearm across my beaded brow.
Hot times on Beale Street, Memphis, 2006. Note the pedestrians in long pants.
It's hot right now in the Midwest, though nowhere near as steamy as the triple-digit extremes that the unfortunate citizens of our Eastern Seaboard are experiencing. Nevertheless, once the temperature tops 90° Fahrenheit and surpasses that benchmark on a daily basis, those of us with the luxury of air-conditioned homes and cars take a little longer to acclimate. We even start to ponder how the world ever got along without air conditioning, ignoring the fact that much of it still does. Once you're used to living in perpetually comfortable environs, it's easy to get so accustomed to it that the seasonal highs of the summer months seem almost like an affront from nature.
"When Mom and I were your age," I recently pontificated to our eldest daughter, "we grew up without air conditioning in our homes."
"What did you do?" she asked, never having known such discomfort.