In March, the weather is usually as good as it can ever get anywhere: sunny and 65-75. People practically skip down the streets in joy. In March, you are ready and willing to enjoy these temperatures, whereas in February you might have grumbled a bit, still liking a hint of cool, of winter. In March, you are happy to be reunited with flip flops and appreciate the ease of slip on and slip off coming and going. The laundry pile shrinks with less layers, smaller and lighter clothing, no socks. Happy days are here.
March is over. April---the transition month in which you begin girding your loins for the heat ahead---is over.
It's May now.
Spring sprung and it's early summer, at least weather-wise. It's the "still bearable" summer though, with temperatures not too much above 85, at least not too often, and a little wind from the north and west, keeping it from getting too, too humid.
Once this last bit of softpedal summer closes, it should be a good 90 plus degrees F with full humidity (meaning it feels like 100). Shortly thereafter the temps will hit ~100 and stay there for six solid unrelieved months, also with full humidity meaning it feels like it's about 8 gabillion degrees outside.
If you were to fly down here---say, for example, from the awesomeness that is New England---you would discover that stepping out of the plane into the jetway is physically painful. The wall of humid heat slams into you like a freight train. Everyone blinks, staggers back for a second, and then moves on.
And that's just May. Not June, when hurricane season begins. Not July, when the real heat mounts. Nor August, the month that smothers you with sultriness. Or September, or October, when you whine like a three year old about the neverending waves of hot, when you are ready to sell your soul for relief.
So my dread begins to mount this time of year. Although, I will say...after three years here I might just be gradually adjusting the teensiest bit to this heat.
Each day I can stand to be outdoors, we live there. Outside all the time. As much as possible. Today might be the last day! Today might be our last chance to be outside and enjoy ourselves, rather than worry about becoming a heatstroke statistic.
Other than intermittant cloud cover, and threats of wicked storms that move inland and back out to sea so fast you can get dizzy watching the clouds, it's been pretty nice outside. Even so, a little drizzle doesn't faze us. We aren't made of sugar.
"Keep playing!" I yell to the kids through my rain wet hands, "Climb that slide! It's like a water park!"
So far the mosquitos are still sparse enough that the vile chemical-poison spraying trucks aren't out yet. Without bug repellant you can get away with no more than a dozen bites. Citronella candles actually seem to work. That's practically pleasant. Also, the insects are still relatively small. My neighbors' toy poodle runs footloose and fancy-free with no fear that some mosquito will carry him off.
But we all know: this day will be done soon.
I watch weather reports obsessively, waiting for the wind to come up from the south, across the bay. Ocean water warmer than a hot tub.
More than any of this, though, the chief cause of my increasing anxiety is the Epic Battle of the Air Conditioner.
I know those of you still waiting for the last layer of permafrost to melt---and who are jazzed about hitting 55! With sun!---want to hit me when I say: oh yes, air conditioning season is upon us. Already. Has been for a couple of months.
This is when the battle begins. My family offers no quarter to me after the winter.
In the winter---using that word lightly to mean any time the temperature falls below 70---my pitiful children and husband spend the entire season chattering their teeth dramatically and crying for heat while I say, "Oh get some hormones already, I mean, a sweater, get a sweater!" I set the heater at 55, maybe 60 if the whining gets to me. That is not freezing, no matter how many times Patience declares that she is turning into a human popsicle.
"It never even freezes here," I explain impatiently, "It would have to get down to 32 and stay there for a long while. We don't even get below 40 really. It is scientifically impossible to freeze. Now suck it up sister! You're from NEW ENGLAND! Wailing about 54 degrees is a shame to your roots!"
They get me back this time of year though, that thin-skinned and thin-blooded family of mine.
The temperature hits 80 and I'm sweating, crying, "I'm melting! Melting I say! Ice water! Cool cloths! Help me! What are the signs of heatstroke?"
I keep my home warranty up to date solely to protect my air conditioner, although it comes in handy in other ways. I baby that appliance like no other. I expect much from it, so I give much to it, "Are you happy? Any St. Augustine runners growing into your vents? Is your condensing unit stressed? Should I call Pete to come work on you? Are the ducts supporting your air flow properly? Do the dampers need any adjusting?" The only other home maintenance thing I am this OCD about is pest control. (If you saw the size, quantity and variety of pests here, you'd go Monk too.)
We pass 75 by one degree---I do mean at 76, literally---I immediately switch on the A/C and work to ensure that my house is always a bearable 75, with all ceiling fans on. (Trading Spaces and any aesthete who says ceiling fans ruin the look of a room can kiss my lily white china. You live here with no fans. I double dog dare you.)
My husband moves it up to 78. I turn it down to 74. He moves it up to 78. I turn it down to 74.
"I need my footie PJs," Patience says, "It's COLD!"
"Footie PJs!" Persistence agrees, "Tits TOLD!"
"Fine," I tell them with a glare, "Call 74 cold. You guys are welcome to layer up in PJs and blankets. It's always easier to warm up!"
And that right there is my absolutely consistent main point: you can always add layers to be warmer, there is not enough you can take off to be cool when it gets really hot here.
The A/C is my lifeline, and is the only reason I don't run screaming to Canada by June.
My husband never says anything. I never say anything. We just keep moving that dial up and down. I feel warm, go check, yep, it's at 78-80. I turn it down. He feels cool, goes to check, yep, it's back at 74. He turns it up.
Yes, our unit is controlled by a 36 year old dial. I will not trade it out for the world. I'm a self-confessed Luddite of sorts. Through a plethora of very negative---by which I mean highly inconvenient and very expensive---experiences I have grown to be completely against high-tech computer run push button appliances. They break all the time. They freak out and do weird things like beep all night. And they cost a blooming fortune to maintain and repair.
Meanwhile, my dial at almost 40 years old is a perfect specimen of climate control.
I do not find it trouble at all to turn the dial back down to 74.
I will concede one little pro to those complicated modern computerized climate controls. In our last house we had one, and I had the edge. I won the battle more often. See, I will read instruction manuals. And as a former writer of them (mine were the good ones! I swear!), I can skim them pretty quickly and grasp the salient parts. This makes me the Goddess of All Things Technical in the house, like programming voice mail and thermostats.
Now we are on even playing ground with our workhorse dial. The field is level. Let the battle begin.
"This is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."
—Winston Churchill, HarrowSchool, 29 October 1941.
copyright all text and images 2007 Julie Pippert