June 14, 2006

It's a Dry Heat

Every time I complain about the heat here--and complain I do, because I'm a complainer by nature, Complainy McBitchalot, that's me--my boyfriend reminds me that I'm the one who moved here. On purpose.

He also reminds me that I am the world's worst cheerleader for the idea that It's a Dry Heat.

Me: Damn, it's hot today.

Boyfriend [mimicking]: But it's a dryyyyyy heeeeeat!

Me: Oh, shut it.

Boyfriend [still mimicking]: I can't believe I moved to the desert and it's hot here! What's up with that?

Me: No, really? SHUT IT.

The thing is, though, I may complain a lot, but it doesn't mean I haven't been converted to the belief that dry heat beats wet heat every time, because I have. I really, really have.

Not everyone subscribes to that idea. That's cool. It's weird to me, but it's cool. One of the funniest ongoing conversations I ever had was with a fellow waitress years ago who had moved to Phoenix from Atlanta--and she wouldn't shut up about how hot it was.

Me: But Linda, Atlanta?

Linda [near tears]: At least we had SHADE there! At least things GREW there! At least we had BREEZES once in awhile! At least it RAINED! [Note: This was all sobbed in the most beautiful, heart-rending Southern accent possible, seriously. Southerners even do complaining graciously. It's astonishing.]

Me: But the humidity--

Linda [shrieking]: It's 117 today, Ilyka, 117, THAT'S BARBARIC, how can you even think about humidity? Whether it's dry or wet it's still one hundred and seventeen degrees! One hundred! And seventeen!

Me: But it's a dry--


Unsurprisingly, Linda eventually moved back to Atlanta. Actually, Linda went to her husband, who had been transferred in his job from Atlanta to Phoenix in the first place, and told him he could either stay married or stay in Phoenix but she, by gum, was getting on a plane and going back to the place where she'd never have to hear about the you-know-whatting dry heat again.

You either get used to dry heat or you don't. Linda didn't. I did. But you can only get so used to it. It's not like temperatures in the triple digits quit bothering you. They just don't bother you as much. On the day it hit a record high of 122 in Phoenix, I was making the quarter-mile trek from my apartment to the one, the only, apartment complex laundry room. This was a huge apartment complex, but--one laundry room, on the south side of the complex, and I lived on the north, and I'm not kidding, the complex spanned an entire quarter mile. It was about noon when I was hauling my gigantic, overstuffed laundry basket up there, and I remember thinking something like, "Wow, little worse than usual today."

I did not think, "Wow, IT'S A RECORD HIGH TODAY," because you don't think like that. 115, 117, 118, 119, 122--is there really that much difference? Apparently there is, because I did notice it, long before I heard the weather report. But I noticed it in passing, so to speak. I didn't notice it the way Linda would have noticed it. That's what I mean when I say you get used to it. You don't quit noticing it, you just quit shrieking about it.

That's not to say I didn't shriek just as bad as Linda my first year there. My parents moved us to Phoenix in June. Now, hold on--they meant well. They thought that this way, my brother and I would have the whole summer to make friends before school started. My mom, in fact, spent a lot of time nagging me to Go Outside and Make Friends. Me, I kept screaming at her that there was no one outside to make friends WITH because the neighborhood kids were what some would call SANE PEOPLE who STAYED INDOORS watching television, instead of going outside WHERE IT WAS OVER 110, for crying out loud, was she trying to kill me?

Every time I did shuffle out of doors--and believe me, I did this as seldom as possible--I thought, this is what it feels like to be baked in an oven. This is what a Thanksgiving turkey would feel were it not already dead when you popped it in at 425 degrees. Even when you do get a breeze in 110+ temperatures, it doesn't comfort you. The lousy breeze is hot.

So I get why some people don't care how dry the heat is. It's just the opposite of why I don't care that it's "only 78" some place, some place that's also having 80% humidity. I've been vastly more uncomfortable in 78 degrees with high humidity than I've ever been in the oven-like climate of the desert. You put me in a humid climate, and the sweating, it never stops. The theory of sweat is that you sweat, it evaporates, you cool off. I know this is 46 kinds of gross and more than you needed to know about me and all, but in a humid climate my sweat never evaporates. It just COLLECTS. And you can't tell me there isn't something unnatural--something just as unnatural as, say, living with three solid months of over-100 temperatures--about getting out of an ice-cold shower and never being able to dry off from it because the minute you exit the shower, oh, look out, here come those great big buckets of sweat again.

Here, you sweat for a microsecond before the dry air sucks it right offa you, before you can even think to flick it away. This, this I can deal with.

It's not anywhere near what it used to get up to in Phoenix here today, but it's still pretty hot. And I'm still kind of complaining about it. Just know that I don't really mean it. Deep down, I am praising the heavens that I am here in the magical marvelous dry heat and not anywhere else; especially not anywhere else where I'd get into Linda-style arguments with the locals about how yes, I know it's only 78 degrees on the thermometer, I know, but the humidity is going to drown me.

I believe. I believe in the dry heat.

UDPATE: That said, this is still the best part of the day. Sink, you fiery bastard!

P.S. Help me out: Did I write this before? I'm getting that horrible sinking feeling that I've written this post before. I can't turn it up via Google here, but, I dunno, somewhere else? Maybe Journalspace? Or that one blog I deleted last year because some petty, childish, passive-aggressive, hypermanipulative little armchair analyst viper pissed me off too much to continue it? Am I really getting this senile that I repeat myself this badly? Can we pretend that last question was rhetorical?

Posted by Ilyka at June 14, 2006 03:07 PM in navel gazing

Here in the land of lower temps but higher humidity, I'll stick with the devil I know. Heat is heat is heat and I'm probably going to kill the next person that asks, "Is it hot enough for ya?".

Posted by: Rob at June 14, 2006 03:25 PM

I am SO with fellow Deep South gal Linda on this issue. I'm a 5th-generation native Floridian, so I'm used to gigantic cockroaches, hurricanes, and above all, HEAT. But I must admit, the desert heat kicked my ass.

My (now-ex) boyfriend insisted on going camping at the Grand Canyon in July one year. I knew it would be hot, but I had no idea. The non-collecting sweat thing was a plus, but not counter-balanced by the fact that I was molting like a goddarned lizard.

We drove thru Death Valley at 3:00 in the morning (in a car with no A/C, I should add). When we stopped at the agricultural inspection station, I asked the lady who was manning the booth when it was going to cool down.

"Honey," she said, "it already has."

Never again. I'll stay here in my hot and steamy paradise, never to suffer the fate of a Thanksgiving turkey again.

Posted by: Betty Cracker at June 14, 2006 07:42 PM
"Honey," she said, "it already has."

Oh, that's priceless. My mother still flies into a rage over all the people in Phoenix who kept telling her, "It's not so bad! At least it cools down at night." It DOES cool down at night--to 80, 85 or so, and hell, that's a 20-25 degree difference! Break out the ski parkas!

But her point, of course, was that it was still 85 miserable degrees in the middle of the night. And I have to agree with her there--that's plenty uncomfortable.

Posted by: ilyka at June 14, 2006 08:03 PM

No way -- the desert nights were the best part! Getting off a plane from NY (where it was 90 and humid) and coming out of Sky Harbor at night, where it's 85 and dry, that was the first good thing about having to come home!

Posted by: JD at June 15, 2006 06:56 AM

I had to leave Phoenix after living there for only few months. I moved in early April and left by early August. I couldn't take the heat exhaustion. New Orleans I was able to get used to with being hospitalized. It wasn't too much hotter or humider than the summers in Chicago, just last much longer. But in general, I'd rather live with winters. Since I have no intention of moving out of the midwest, it's not a problem.

Posted by: Ron O. at June 15, 2006 11:00 AM

The proper reply to "It's a dry heat!" is "Yeah, but secreted from what?".

Either they'll think that's great or you'll really, really confuse them.

(I drove through Death Valley and it was pleasantly cool - nigh cold. Of course, this was February and it was two years ago, so it had just been raining...

Me, I wouldn't live anywhere in Arizona except maybe Flagstaff. Fargin' desert. And let's not even start on the Vast Wasteland known as Nevada.)

Posted by: Sigivald at June 15, 2006 02:19 PM

I grew up in the desert and I spent four years in the sticky deep south.

I'll take the sinking Turkey-in-the-oven feeling any day. Because if you sweat in the dry heat, you will cool off. With air that's just as wet as the shower you just exited, there's absolutely no hope of ambient air (or even possibly a breeze) cooling your skin.

In theory.

I like the Inland Northwest -- where the summertime temps didn't reach 100 degrees more than for ONE DAY last summer. (Eee, and you shoulda heard the whiiiiining.)

Yeah, baby.

But there's the cold winters in trade.

Posted by: Margi at June 17, 2006 11:34 AM