hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

August 29, 2013

Cool ways to beat the summer heat

Tom Vartabedian
The Haverhill Gazette

---- — My mama used to say, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

What mama failed to tell me was this: What do you do if the heat is all around you — inside, outside, scorching your mind and tormenting your body?

How do you handle a heat wave that lasts a week with no immediate relief in sight?

By the time you read this, the third week of July will have melted into oblivion. But who’s to say we won’t get an encore in August and even September. I’ve seen some pretty hot days after Labor Day, just when you thought the cool, crisp air of fall was beckoning us.

It is mid-July and like all of New England, I am sitting still and sweating up a pool. All it takes is my fingers running across a keyboard. My wife wanted to move some bedroom furniture around. I told her to forget about anything strenuous, except opening a can of beer and pouring it into a frosted mug.

“No walk today, dear, unless it’s from the kitchen to the TV room. The den you wanted painted will just have to wait another day, week or month. What’s the rush?”

We have abandoned our camp in the woods and headed back home to an air-conditioned condo. It spells r-e-l-i-e-f. I pity those poor people without it.

Some clown on TV weighed the advantages of hot versus cold. Would we rather freeze in the dead of winter or swelter in the summer’s heat? I can take heat. It’s the humidity that gets me down.

“You get used to it,” says a Floridian. He denied bringing this heat with him from the Sunshine State.

“You go from an A/C car to an A/C office to an A/C home,” he tells me. “The summer comes and goes before you actually feel it.”

Ya, right. What about the in-between? Getting into a hot car can fry your senses before you cool off.

A friend of mine just returned from Las Vegas, where he was attending a convention. Hot as it is around here, it was worse there. Okay, so he stayed inside an air-conditioned resort, but once he left to do some sight-seeing, the sun pounced on him like a vulture in the desert.

“One day, it got to 115 degrees,” he revealed “Then it cooled off to 95. We were going around pushing doors marked ‘pull’. It was exasperating.

“And the longer you stayed in the casino, the more money you lost and that made it even hotter,” he continued. “I was fried.”

With nothing better to do today than to wait out the heat inside my condo, I decided to concoct a list of ways to beat this heat. It may work for you. Or it may not. But just thinking about it may give you some comfort.

Don’t bother walking your dog today. Let him walk you instead. Better yet, find a shady elm and wait there while he does his business.

Don’t bother answering the telephone, unless it’s from your financial adviser with a cool prospect. The last thing you need on a day like this is nerves. Let it ring until someone else decides to pick up the receiver.

Avoid the mail, too. Getting an overdue payment warning can raise your boiling point enough to make you snap. Above all, avoid listening to the weather reports. These constant reminders of a heat wave are bound to make you delirious.

If you don’t have central air or A/C, sit in front of a fan. Watch a cool flick like “March of the Penguins.” Fill a glass with ice and pour yourself an exotic drink.

Speaking of the plunge, if you have a pool, stay submerged. Get on a tube and take your margarita with you. No pool? Then fill a tub with ice and ease yourself in. No tub? Get under a shower and run the cold water.

You can always find yourself a cool movie theater and watch the same picture over and over again. If management gives you the boot, adjourn to the lobby and watch the people. Far more interesting than some of these flicks they have out now.

Get into a conversation with your teenage son — if he’ll talk to you. Speak his language and say nice things to him. He’ll reciprocate by saying, “Cool.” That’s bound to have an uplifting effect.

Find yourself a good book like “Snowbound” and adjourn to the basement. It’s always a tad cooler down below.

Get on a computer and find the coolest destinations in the world. Don’t bother booking a flight. The heat won’t last. Instead, look at the pictures and dream.

Scoop up a small mountain of ice cream, then another and another. Opening the freezer door will give you temporary relief. Stick your head inside for a second but don’t close the door — just enough to catch a chill.

Mama used to be a woman full of platitudes. She had this old Armenian saying which was bandied about at times like this. “There are no fans in hell.”

She spent the last four years inside an air-conditioned nursing home and was a lot better off than us sweat hogs.

Writer and photographer Tom Vartabedian is retired from The Haverhill Gazette. He contributes this regular column.