28 June 2014

The Other Side of Summer

I don't like summer. I never have, and I hate being the person who says that and feels that way, but it's who I am. I've spent my whole life in New England, where people have the distinct combination of a stoic acceptance of winter with the tendency to go batshit when a snowstorm is approaching. They rush to the grocery store to ensure a supply of staple foods, as though they’re expecting to be snowed in for two weeks or more.

So after enduring the winter, people around here tend to be excited about summer. They want to get outside, go to beaches, sit on outdoor patios and drink. I approach summer in terms of how little time I can manage to spend outside. I mean, look at me. I've already had one basal cell carcinoma removed from my forehead. I have to treat the sun as something that's trying to kill me.

I’ve reached the point where I have to wear a hat whenever I’m outside. My summer hat is made of some sort of synthetic that has UV protection built in. But I still need to cover my arms with long sleeves or cover them in sunscreen, which is a less unpleasant experience than it was when I was a child (when it was like wearing paste) but is still messy and gross: either stuff sticks to your skin, or your clothes get stained, or both.

I was always the proverbial indoor kid. Growing up, we had a pool, which was great. (An aboveground pool, because we were a working-class family.) But I didn't like playing outside. If I wasn't swimming in the pool, I was back in the house, usually either reading or down in the basement, where it was cooler than the rest of the house, working on model cars. To me, the most horrifying words anyone can say are “Let’s go to the beach!” or "wanna go camping?"

Getting to work is especially fun in the summer. If you're lucky, you go from your air-conditioned house to your air-conditioned car, then walk across a parking lot to an air-conditioned office building, and you aren’t spending time outside in the heat and humidity unless you choose to. But if you're commuting on public transit, you walk to the bus stop and wait for a bus, then ride to a train station where you don't really know for sure how long you'll have to wait for a train, then when a train does come you hope there's enough room for you to get on.

If you do make it on then it's probably packed pretty full of people and you better hope the air-conditioning is working, and that it's strong enough to keep you and all your fellow riders comfortable, and that the other passengers on the train believe in practicing good hygiene and have bathed some time in the last 12 hours or so, and hopefully there isn't someone standing next to you who decided it would be a good idea to run the three miles to the train station that morning. And then when you reach your stop, you probably have to walk at least a short distance to your office. Some days, I feel like I already need another shower by the time I get to work.

I used to work in an office where a number of my coworkers thought the air conditioning was too cold. (They were female, but I don’t think I’m being sexist by saying that women tend to be colder than men.) But it got to the point where several of them asked for, and received, small heaters to keep under their desks.

But the thing about that was, if you have three or four people sitting near each other who are all running these heaters, it makes that area of the office warmer. Meanwhile, I was stuck sitting near them, in the part of the office that ended up five or six degrees warmer than the rest because their heaters are running all day. And guess what? The sensors tell the AC to kick on to compensate for that pocket of warmth, and the cycle never ends… Would it have been so terrible for people to just keep sweaters in their desks, or maybe even some slippers?

And let’s not forget the delicate aroma of decomposing garbage that wafts through the air every week when the trash goes out. Around where I live, people have a tendency to put out their trash a full day ahead of schedule, which ensures it gets nice and ripe before it gets picked up.

Summer? No thanks. The extra daylight is nice, I guess, but you can only remove so many layers of clothing and still end up sticky and uncomfortable, or you could just be like me and hide indoors.


Anonymous said...

Loved your SUMMER article! M

A Proper Bostonian said...

Indeed, summer is not all it's cracked up to be. I'm sick of it already. The only good thing about it is that the sidewalks aren't slippery... just everything else.