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Friday, July 26, 2013

Beaten Down by the Heat

While Minneapolis neared 100 degrees for several days two weeks ago, we've dropped into very comfortable temps recently.  This re-post, while I heal from tendonitis -- and a trip to the chiropractor where my forearms were cruelly "ironed" with various stainless steel devices -- is from 2011.


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.

27 comments:

vanilla said...

Thank you, Pearl, for renewing my appreciation for the rural/agrarian lifestyle.

Pearl said...

vanilla, but if you're in Mpls, do look me up. :-)

Eva Gallant said...

Neither the cold nor the heat is kind to the homeless.

Indigo Roth said...

And your government's not fond of them either, Eva.

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
...of course YAM is wondering what would have transpired had you said, "Yes I do"...? But I guess it was way to hot to be bothering about.

Sorry to hear about your having to be ironed. Case of cure worse than condition? Hugs, YAM xx

Simply Suthern said...

When it gets hot here, sweat rolls from my head like condensation off a tall glass of of iced tea on 90% humidity day.

Buttons said...

Well that was scary. It must be terribly hard. B

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

We who have cool basements to retreat to, fans and air conditioners do not realize how truly blessed we are.
Hope those wrists heal up soon.

Shelly said...

We care about you, Pearlie- and if it makes you feel any better, this is the time of the year I dream regularly of the Arctic Circle.

BLissed-Out Grandma said...

So well written. All your posts are, but it's worth mentioning again. And in our heat waves I find myself thinking not only about the homeless but also about those whose homes are relentlessly hot. And I think about my air conditioner, running during the hot days and adding to climate change. But I don't turn it off until temps are tolerable. Sigh.

Susan Kane said...

A/C has saved many relationships. And now I have another reason to hate city life.

Great observations.

Geo. said...

Your description of the mall encounter was quite poignant. Such misfortune, psychological tragedy. You didn't laugh at his tissues, did you?

The Savage said...

Word

Craver Vii said...

That was more than a little scary. I hung out with a few homeless folks last night. Apparently, they have not heard the warning that the consumption of alcohol is a bad idea during long exposure to extreme heat. The man who usually talks the most was just about as sauced as the poor tequila worm. There were no threats, though. I gave them food and there were inappropriate expressions of appreciation. These men did care about me, and I hope I never take that for granted.

Roshni AaMom said...

A little scary but equally sad.

Launna said...

It is sad what some people have to deal with when it comes to the weather... however; they should not take this out on others... that is very sad...

Kathleen McCoy said...

I never stop being grateful for the roof over my head -- in any season -- and feel bad for the homeless, so many of whom are mentally ill. Still, it's scary to encounter someone like that angry man. I have a dear friend who is a social worker dealing with the homeless and getting them housing. He says that, due to their mental illness, drug abuse, etc., so many of them can't take care of themselves and a room or apartment. It's so sad. We're having an active monsoon season here in AZ and have both heat and humidity. Very uncomfotable!

Jo-Anne Meadows said...

I haven't read this before so thank you for the repost.......I only have to look at my sister to know how lucky I am she is 43yrs old and has been staying with our parents again as she has no where else to go and is finding it bloody hard to find a place to rent.

jenny_o said...

It's hard to know just what circumstances brought him to that state of anger, and how much was - or wasn't - a result of his own choices ... but it's not hard to imagine how it felt to be spit at ...

Ginny said...

I love the line where you say the heat feels like poverty!! It has been really hot here the last week or so. Oh my gosh, it sounds like you have been tortured! Tendonitis in your arms? I hope you find out what is causing it.

River said...

"...ironed with various stainless steel devices"
What? What are they doing to you?
I've never heard of such a thing. I'd like to know more, such as what is it exactly and how is it supposed to help and is it in fact helping?

As for that poor man, I suppose he is bitter and angry because no one seems to care about him. I can't imagine he started out that way, he's probably been ignored for years. Maybe if some kind soul had bought him an ice cream cone during the heatwave, he might have mellowed a bit. ditto a coffee in the cold.

Twisted Scottish Bastard said...

Why is it the hotter it gets, the more layers the homeless seem to put on?

I often feel sorry for them, but I wish I could feel sorry for them from a lot further away.

Linda O'Connell said...

The third day of a heat wave makes normal people crazy. Wishing you a speedy recovery.

Pat Tillett said...

You should never get off the bus. It's refrigerated and you usually don't get spat upon while in it.

I am not a head sweater! I seem to sweat mostly from my nether regions and feet. I realize that this is too much information, but as long as we were on the subject.

Diane Tolley said...

I'm with you on the whole 'paper tissue' thing. Once I went an entire day with a bit of white Kleenex sweat-glued to one corner of my upper lip. And no, it wasn't the little blotter left over from a bad shave . . .

Jen said...

Hahaha, so true. I have been there, so hot that you are furious for no reason.

Daisy said...

There, but for the grace of God, go I. Good post, Pearl. Feeling grateful tonight.