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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Beaten Down by the Heat

It was 86 degrees by 6:20. This is at least 10 degrees warmer than necessary, if you ask me, but it’s nothing compared to the 100 degrees we are expecting late afternoon.

And I’m against it.

I pick up a flattened Wendy’s cup on the sidewalk, frown at it, walk it to the bus stop where I introduce it to the garbage can.

The humidity is oppressive, and I wipe the sweat from my forehead.

As an aside -- and you may not know this about me -- but I’m a head-sweater.

My mother’s a head-sweater, my son’s a head-sweater, and by golly no one cools off with layers of protective sheen better than we do.

Already I’ve formed a sweat mustache.

I dab at my newly acquired glow delicately. I own perhaps two dozen decorative handkerchiefs and do not understand how people live without them. Tissues? Do not speak to me of your paper tissues!

I laugh at your tissues!

I consider whether or not I may already be a bit dehydrated.

The man on the bike, the man who now waves every day at 6:24, is waving robustly from across the street. Given my distractions, what with the litter and the handkerchief smugness, he’s been forced to get my attention by slowing his bike to the point of almost tipping over.

“Good morning!" he hollers. "Good morning!”

I look up, smile at him, wave vigorously. “Good morning!”

I am not normally a "morning person", but why not, huh?

The bus arrives, and I board it gratefully.

It is refrigerated.

“Mornin’!” the bus driver says. “You doin’ all right today?”

“Too warm,” I say, smiling. “You’ll talk to someone about that for me, won’t you?”

“Heh, heh, heh,” he chuckles.

I move to the back of the bus, where my thoughts drift toward the river, down the embankments, and into the water.

I stand up as the bus arrives at my stop, pull one iPod earbud out so as to be alert should anything untoward happen. I de-bus, step down to the sidewalk. The heat feels like poverty, like desperation and I wonder: What do the homeless do during heat waves?

Just feet ahead of me, a woman has skittered forward rapidly as if goosed.

And I am next.

There is a large man, a heavy man shaped in the manner of ancient Egyptian architecture: pointed on top, spreading wider and wider, this pyramid of a man is sitting on one of the many ledges along Nicollet Mall. His hair is on end, his clothes dirty. Red-faced, wild-eyed, and mostly toothless, he is spitting venom at everyone who walks by.

And I am next.

“Do you care about me?” he demands, red-eyed and angry. “Because I sure as hell don’t care about you!

I look into his eyes, and he pulls his fist back as if to strike me.

I put my index finger to my chest. I can’t look away.

He is ugly with the heat. He spits at my feet and I jump back. "Yes, you!" he screams. "I don’t care about you! I don’t care about you!”

I walk away, quickly.

I think I just found out what happens to the homeless in a heat wave.

62 comments:

Silliyak said...

Women don't sweat, they glisten, and WE care about you.

Doubting Thomas said...

Yeesh. Heat does make people do crazy things. Like shave their cats. Speaking of which, keep the clippers away from Liza Bean :)

Pearl said...

Silliyak, :-) That's nice. Thank you. I thought about that guy a lot yesterday...

Doubting Thomas, I felt for him, but he was also vicious. And yes. Both kitties have been eyeing the razors...

Charlotte Ann said...

Some of our worst mental patients on the "unit" were of the homeless variety. Be careful....a paranoid schizophrenic is not anyone to dabble with without security personnel at your elbow.

Pearl said...

Charlotte Ann, he did have a look in his eyes that I would not mess with, and that's for sure...

Simply Suthern said...

I tend to condensate all over like a glass of sweet iced tea in the dog days of summer down south.

Camille said...

Be careful out there Pearl!

And yes - I too am a head sweater and a charter member of 'Head Sweaters International' - an organization dedicated to the support of serious head sweaters across the world. We meet once a year, in the dead of winter and usually in a drafty, poorly heated bar, and share head sweating stories from the prior summer. You sound like a perfect candidate. I'd sign you up, but I'm a litte too sweaty and hot right now...maybe later k?

Susan in the Boonies said...

Really? I don't know how they survive. Many do not, I am sure.

Perimenopause has turned me into a head sweater.

Macy said...

Summertime over here I worry about the homeless in the cold and the rain (yes really....)
Especially the woman who has recently appeared with only a bandaged stump wehre her left leg used to be.

Joyful Things said...

Head sweater. At first glance I thought 'why would anyone knit a sweater for their head' and then I thought 'isn't that just a toque?' and then I knew I needed coffee before reading. Stay inside where it's cool and a big enough distance from the delusional.

aBroad said...

You are more than welcome to visit here, bring extra sweaters and a coat and even if there were a pyramid shaped unpleasant person here, you would not understand them if they say something unkind.
It is a very nice cocoon to live in, come visit !
besos, I love you.. if that helps.

jenny_o said...

Sad and alarming. I'd be weak at the knees for quite awhile if that happened to me.

About the head sweating, I have a theory. This theory is totally based on personal experience. Nevertheless I think it is 100% correct. Thick hair equals like wearing a toque (that's Canadian for winter knitted hat) equals raise in head temperature of, oh, 5 degrees C (that's Canadian for 9 degrees F) equals bloody warm on a hot day equals ... HEAD SWEATING!

And never mind wearing makeup which will only end up around your chest inside of an hour. And also don't even think about accessorizing with a scarf, no matter how thin and wispy, because you'll die even before your makeup goes south.

... I guess the heat makes me irritable, too, in my own crabby way.

powdergirl said...

Great post Pearl, I agree oppressive heat does feel like poverty and desperation. Exceedingly well put!
And yeah, when the homeless are also unmedicated crazy people, they're pretty scary and unpredictable. Sad though, hey?

Oilfield Trash said...

Welcome to my world.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

I suspect most homeless people are trying to take shelter in shade somewhere, but you've put us in touch with someone who is angry and defiant enough to make himself very visible. And it's not only the homeless--lots of homes have probably heated up to the max and stayed that way. Thanks for a great post.

Leenie said...

You'd think there would be a way to put all the high temp in a reservoir like the water that melts off the mountains. We could use it later when we need it...like in about six weeks.

I admit I took the scissors to our wookie, speedbump fuzzball cat one summer. He was terrified of the clippers but loved his summer haircut even though he looked awful. Cats know how to enjoy comfort.

Bossy Betty said...

Heat can make the sane and secure into raving maniacs. Doing the math, we can see how it might affect those who are not.

haphazardlife said...

The homeless get shafted by both the heat and the cold...

Wait, you have air conditioned buses????!?!?!!?

Boxer said...

I'm so sorry for the horrible heat. I drove to work in 60 degree weather and I am no longer complaining about our lame Summer... we rarely crack 70 degrees this year, because I can continue to take my Vitamin D while you all are suffering. :-( May it pass quickly.

Pearl said...

Simply, I admire the all-over sweaters. :-)

Camille, send me the flyer! I’ll take the next sweaty minutes!

Susan, I now have a fan at my desk. :-)

Macy, ooh. Missing a leg now? Poor thing. Her choices in life may have led her to that, but sometimes, it’s about the luck of the draw: who you’re born to, how you face adversity, who’s in your corner… I am grateful for how lucky I’ve been in that regard…

Joyful Things, good advice! And yes: head sweaters are just silly. :-)

aBroad, that sounds lovely. Summer/winter in South America!

Jenny_o, actually, I was pretty weak in the knees. It was an odd combination of alarming and heart-breaking. I don’t think life has been kind to him. Also digging your head-sweating theory. :-)

Powdergirl, yes. The “crazy” rolled off him. Combined with perhaps some tough breaks or an inability to get/hold a job, he presented as an unlovable soul… I thought about him a lot yesterday, trying to decide if I should write about it, but then of course, that’s when you absolutely SHOULD write… Even now, he’s in my head…

OT, that’s a scary, sticky world!!

Blissed-Out, absolutely. I moved my mattress to the living room Monday to be nearer the window air conditioner and have not slept well in absolutely days. My heart goes out to the people sleeping in shelters, in tents, and what they must endure. I lived hand-to-mouth for a number of years and am ever grateful that I squeaked by as I did without losing a roof…

Pearl said...

Leenie, if only! As we say around here, give it a couple weeks and it will snow, but until then it’s hard not to put your head in the freezer…

Bossy, exactly. It was easy to put myself in his place, and it was terrifying.

Haphazard, air-conditioned buses?! We do, indeed.

Boxer, the heat broke today. Expected high? 90. :-) Feels like a reprieve!

Jhon Baker said...

buy that bastard a fan - write on it that it is impolite to spit at a lady of your grace.

Jimmy Bastard said...

Superbly narrated Pearl, a great swirling lemon sorbet of a post, using chunky syllables as though they were grand chocolate chips that adorned each delicious line.

Rene/ Not The Rockefellers said...

but you do care about that dude...and if I know you, Pearl, you're already thinking about what to do for him. :)

Kavi said...

Sometimes, nature is our leveler. The heat and the cold are instruments of nature.

The homeless and the well 'homed' are all at the mercy of the heat. Or a tsunami. or an earthquake. Minions infront of natures might.

Pearl said...

jhon, if I thought he'd be able to plug it in, I might!

Jimmy, high praise! Such a smile I have right now!

Rene, I do. He didn't think so, though; and I can certainly understand why...

Kavi, eloquently said!

Joshua said...

I'm a head sweater when I'm sleeping. Especially when I'm sleeping. I've passed this trait on to The Girl.

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

We care about him and we care about you....head sweater? Well, let's just say that my normally curly hair is infinitely MORE curly in the summer. We are expecting 100 degrees F. today as well. I meant farenheit with that F but you can use your imagination if you like.

W.C.Camp said...

I'm not sure whether to feel sorry for the dude or rub cocoa butter on him and TAN him!!! Punchy piece - keep it up! W.C.C.

Eva Gallant said...

What an unnerving way to start the day. Take care of yourself, Pearl, and try to stay cool.

Sausage Fingers said...

Ask yourself this - why is the Sausage so strange?
Well wee Sausage and his family emigrated to the U.S. south Florida to be exact from the east coast of Scotland. We left Scotland in July (Still freezing) and arrived on your gentle shores with papers in hand to 98 degrees of puberty slowing warmth.
The rest is history...I am now mental.
At 68 degrees I make soup.

CarrieBoo said...

It really is sad, and scary, Pearl. Again, so vividly painted. Perhaps he'd appreciate a bucket of ice over his head? Maybe not...

jabblog said...

'de-bus' is wonderful as is the man built like an Egyptian pyramid. I can't stand the heat - but that's okay 'cos we don't get much in UK ;-)

Belle said...

I saw people like that man in Vancouver. There are thousands of homeless there. I am a hand sweater, which was awkward as a teenager on a date. Eventually, they want to hold your hand!

Shelly said...

Wow- that is a scary encounter. I wonder if the heat made him worse, or he is just naturally like that no matter the weather. Be careful out there!

Shelly (La Tejana) This won't let me sign in-

Stephanie Faris said...

They've been releasing more and more crazy people here in TN. State govt. doesn't want to foot the bill anymore. They're trying to provide them some kind of place to live where they're segregated and cared for, but I fear what will happen once all these people get out on the streets.

Val Thevictorian said...

I will take the head sweat over the underboob sweat any day. But you can keep your hot ledge-sitter.

ellen abbott said...

I didn't used to sweat. Before the big change that is. at best (or worst as the case may be) I would perspire a bit. Now I sweat. Running down my face sweat. And not just small rivulets but streams of sweat. certain spots on my face are veritable conduits of streams of sweat.

Kristy said...

I hate the heat. It makes me angry. Thank god for AC. And cocktails.

aBroad said...

I was happy that we were able to walk to the markets today without gloves and scarves. Just a coat was enough .. (rubbing it in)

Laoch of Chicago said...

So hot! Many crazy homeless people in my neighborhood. Interacting with them is generally dangerous unfortunately, because many of the are schizophrenic.

laughingmom said...

I'm not so sure that he was only possessing verbal venom - sounds infected (maybe zombie style) for sure. I was actually thinking similar things today as the heat index zoomed past 100 and the homeless were not at their usual corners.

Bushman said...

Yes it was hot. It is hot. Even the breeze seems lke a giant hair dyrer that chases you wherever you go. Hot, sticky, dastardly weather.

"GB" said...

Women glow, we never sweat. We had no air at work today, do you think they would let us go... NO, we were all head sweaters by mid morning and that is just not a pretty sight!

vanilla said...

The heat? The good news: you have a lot of company. The bad news: you have a lot of company (and some of them are 'losing it.')

lisleman said...

For the first half of your story, I'm wondering what Wendy looked like all smashed up. Then maniac guy shows up - wow - maybe you should have call the fire dept and reported a hot one roaming the street. He probably could use a hosing.

That Janie Girl said...

Dang. That has to be hard.

I'm going to quit whining now.

the walking man said...

Look two comments in one day. Heat or no heat trash or no trash, homeless or mansion there is no excuse for a stranger without cause to be abusive. To me things like that show to what degree a person is self centered and rude. What did you do to deserve the yelling beside try to get by on your way to work...Are you still in the Hennepin bus line?

Gigi said...

The phrase "head sweater" reminded me of two totally unrelated things....

1) how much my son's head sweats - it was much more noticeable when he was small and I could still see the top of his head

and 2) when we went to Hubby's class reunion there was a guy there (very sweet man) who was, apparently, a head sweater with a shaved head. He kept wiping his head with a tissue (yes, a paper tissue) and leaving little lint balls all over his fuzz. It was hilarious! By the end of the night he looked like he had a head full of white, lint-y hair!!!

And although that scary man doesn't care about you - I do. So what more do you need?

R. Jacob said...

Ah, you northern women can't handle an average south Florida day! Excuse me while I take a sip of a cool drink and put a toe into the pool!

Mama Spaghetti said...

Wow...that's shocking and sad. And kind of scary. I was wondering about that the other day, though. Thinking to myself that a lot of people make a big deal about homeless people in freezing weather (which, I know is also rough), but heat has got to be just as bad or worse.

Julianna said...

I don't do heat well either.

It was 101 today. I delivered mail outside all day.

The kids couldn't even speak to me until I had been refridgerated and showered after 5pm.

And something tells me Almsot Hubs isn't getting lucky tonight either.

The heat hurts everyone really. :)

ISRAEL CARRASCO said...

I'm in CA and the heat is unbearable and it puts me in a foul mood.

Douglas said...

Bunch of wimps! I live in that kind of heat about 8 months of every year.

Cheeseboy said...

Holy crap. That is intense. Our homeless people here just go almost naked in a heat wave. Actually, they might do that too, at least the ones I have run into have been very kind. Naked, but kind.

I actually love the heat and the sweat and the summer. Reminds me of my childhood working in a Chinese sweat shop.

Hilary said...

The heat sure does bring out the worst in everyone. We had a humidex of 48C (118F) today. Mildly unpleasant. ;)

Clipped Wings said...

I'm a head-sweater too. My first year in Panama I thought I was going to float down the street in a river of sweat.

Leslie said...

I sweat beneath my boobs, which is really something too private to put out here on the intertubes.

Crystal Pistol said...

I must admit I feel like a drop in the bucket when commenting here. You have hordes of admirers, Pearl. HORDES! ( I almost wrote whores to be funny on the second "Hordes". I refrained.)

I laughed all crazy like at the thought of that homeless man pointing and screaming at you. I am a SICK puppy. Why is that funny to me? I suppose it's funny because you are so sweet and undeserving of verbal abuse, and yet...

I am also a sweaty girl. Far too sweaty for my liking.

Pat said...

Don't take it personally - the shouty man. He can't help it.
I'm a handkerchief girl too and shall be for ever - my comfort blanket.

Daisy said...

Pearl my dahrling, we don't "sweat", we "perspire"!

It's unusually chilly here, and I'm glad for it. Heat totally wastes me. Maybe the homeless would like a bottle of water? The police and service groups hand it out here when we have excessive heat.

injaynesworld said...

The thing about the heat that makes it so much worse than the cold is if you're cold you can keep piling on more layers of clothing, but if you're hot naked is as naked as naked gets.

Nice to see your wit has not bee effected by the heat.