Here in Texas we are at the start of our second week of weather described as Excessive Heat. Houston, in particular, is a very humid location and that makes it feel even hotter. When I lived for a few years in Dallas in my 20s we’d mock Houston and proudly talk about how much more dry the air was in our town. Dry, yes, but I never really bought that bit about how dry heat is tolerable. The worst heat I’ve experienced in my life happened when I stepped out of a jet not being serviced by a jetway and walked down the stairs to the tarmac and into 118 degree heat in Phoenix, Arizona at the end of July. Oh, it was dry, alright.
It was in Phoenix that I had my first experience with heat exhaustion. After walking for hours looking at apartments I found myself in a gas station bathroom dry heaving. I was told I needed to drink some of this new stuff that’d just come out called Gatorade. I did and it was like a magic elixir flowing through my body, restoring me, maybe saving my life. Gatorade is degraded now and not for me but I thought about it as I sat by the side of a barn this morning pouring a packet of DripDrop into my water bottle.
I volunteer at a wonderful equine rescue ranch, started back in January. I muck, water, brush, give carrots, and lots of hugs and love to the, mostly, donkey population. I adore those precious, gentle animals. And it’s good for my soul to help care for them along with many others who also volunteer and feel the same as I do. But this week and last week it was a real challenge to get anything done. The heat… it’s just brutal! But I did mostly get done, today, what I set out accomplish and I have to give the DripDrop credit.
Last week after about an hour I started having that cough that precedes nausea and is known to me, by experience, to be the early signs of heat exhaustion. I had lots of water last week but water just isn’t enough, you need more than water. When you’re in heat like this you need electrolytes.
I did better today but barely!
Well, that’s Summertime in Texas, right? The weather guys are saying it’s a bit unusual, a bit early in the season for this kind of heat, but not to my recollection. And when I look at the 10 day forecast, nothing but more of the same. And this is June so I have July, August, and September to look forward to because it’s probably, most likely, only going to get hotter. When I walk my dog tonight, take him out for his last pee, it’ll still be in the high 80s. Relentless.
I am a New Yorker. I just am. The majority of my life I’ve lived up there. This is only the start of my 3rd summer in Houston and, I’m glad to say, I am acclimating to the heat. The last two years I started suffering when it was only in the 80s. But I’ve enjoyed the last few months all the while knowing this was coming. And now everyone is suffering. I meet other dog walkers, “Hot enough for you?”, this morning at the gas station, “It’s gonna be another hot one!”, in the grocery line, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph can you believe this heat?” We are, us Texans, bonding in our misery.
This is not at all unlike the bonding that occurs in New York during the bitter winter months. Although, in all fairness, winters in New York ain’t what they used to be! Much warmer. Much less snow. I’ve discussed it with my peeps. We all agree.
As I drove home today, my a/c blasting right at me, I heard the news that a teen died while hiking Big Bend. His stepdad died trying to get help. Big Bend is where I’m planning to go to see the milky way, an adventure I’ve been planning and wrote about awhile back. I was just emailing this morning with a friend who asked if I went yet and if not, better wait until Autumn. Yup, I’d already come to that conclusion. My heart goes out to that family, that horrific loss… tragic.
Soon after I got home, hair still wet from a cold shower, finally starting to feel normal again, I joined my writers group and during HELLOS someone said, “Doing great except for this heat.” Everyone agreed. And then amazingly she continued, “Yeah but I’d rather have this heat than the cold.”
My mouth dropped open. It really did. I was stunned. I’d rather have the cold, I’d 100% rather have the cold. And I thought, You only say that because you have air conditioning. If the power goes out, we’re screwed. And as if on queue I get an email from SHELL energy asking me to help them conserve energy by turning things off and turning up the thermostat to 78 during this horrible heat wave. This isn’t a heat wave, it’s summer in Texas!
After he’d been living in Texas for awhile, when my son would visit me in NY during the winter he’d be freezing cold miserable the whole time. He’d acclimated to the Texas heat, when you’ve done that, the coldness of winter seems worse. Then again, he didn’t have the winter wardrobe like I had. You learn how to dress for it. I didn’t turn up the heat, i kept my house at 62 in the winter (to save $$), everyone knew to wear layers when they visited me. So, it seems to me to be an easier situation to manage. You can wear really warm clothing to deal with winter, there’s only so much you take off in the summer.
Oh, and speaking of Texas, you probably saw that our scary, Texas governor signed a bill rescinding water breaks as deadly heat grips state a measure that will nullify local ordinances that provide workers protection from devastating, triple-digit temperatures. That’s right, let’s get rid of even more pesky regulations and protections. As if 10 minutes every four hours is enough anyway! If they’re like me, they push themselves, they want to get the jobs done, they power through it… you can’t power through heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Nature bats last on that one.
And then there’s this: Extreme Heat Is Deadlier Than Hurricanes, Floods and Tornadoes Combined, from the latest Scientific American magazine’s July 1 edition. In the Climate Change category. I hate the phrase Climate Change. I prefer, Climate Destabilization. That article starts out with a profile of a UPS driver who dies due to heat. Couldn’t help but wonder how many other UPS drivers have died or gotten really ill before the news broke a couple weeks ago that UPS drivers are finally getting air conditioned trucks.
In a world that’s heating up, in places that have an utter dependency on air conditioning, it’s scary to think what the not too distant future holds for us. But, hey, why worry about that now, right?