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As Long as We Remember...

June 29, 2007

Cruel - But Sadly - Usual

Edward Lulie III

Summers in Maryland stink. Yet there are some among us who actually enjoy the agony of sweating outside in 100 degrees and 100% humidity (in my opinion they need immediate mental health evaluations).

There are even some people who simply love biking around the county on sizzling summer days. I see them sometimes red-faced and struggling to ride uphill along Cherry Lane at Braddock Heights.

What is it that makes people so desperate that they deliberately go outside in the blazing heat to exercise? Well, what about football 2-a-day workouts, Ed?

Hey, they are getting ready to play football. Most of the exercisers I see out in the summer sun aren't there for a team sport - or a run at the Olympics.

I suspect that they are really out there just so that they can go back to the office and brag around the water cooler.

"Hey, Joe! Just get back from the emergency room did you?"

"Yep! I was running up the mountain yesterday in that 101 degree heat. You should try it sometime."

Yeah, right.

The awful weather here in summer is nothing new. In colonial and post colonial times British officers serving here received tropical hazard pay. That is extra money because your duty post was thought to be extremely hazardous. Of course, in Washington they also dropped dead from various mosquito-borne illnesses; so the hazard bonus wasn't just due to the punishing humidity and baking sunlight.

Most likely some poor British ambassador barely survived a summer here and then begged the King for mercy so that anyone else unfortunate enough to be posted here should at least receive hazardous duty pay; or perhaps an extra funeral allowance.

Braddock Heights grew to be a popular resort for Washington and Baltimore residents in the 1890's precisely because it was much cooler than in their home towns. It still is, even today, although those that choose to bike through the region on weekends have lost the fundamental concept of staying cool.

Perhaps it's more of "Man I hate riding my bike uphill!"

"Why do you do it, then?"

"Because it feels so good when I stop!"

It's hard to stay cool. To torment myself further I keep a nice winter scene of a snowy landscape on my desktop computer screen to remind me that eventually we will get back to actual cold weather. (Like the kind that saw us with three inches of ice and led me to a trip to emergency room. Okay, I admit it. Winter here is also far from perfect).

I have lived in Maryland all my life, five decades of miserable, hazy, humid summers. Back in the 1960's the entire east coast suffered under a dreadful temperature inversion that turned the air brown and stagnant (yes, really) making it truly miserable and hard to breathe. It was so awful that even Congress took notice that we really did need air pollution controls. While Maryland has continued to reach similar levels of misery, at least the air no longer turns brown; sometimes it does reach hazy shades of grey.

Maryland summers have always stunk. I recall a memorable blistering afternoon when my dad and I were at Memorial Stadium where we watched the Orioles (back in the Boog Powell, Brooks and Frank Robinson era) destroy the Minnesota Twins in 106 degrees. Around the 7th inning one fan walked over to their pennant (all the American League Pennants were flown around the top of the stadium) and lowered it to half mast to a round of applause.

I thought that was bad then; but now I know that true misery is being a fan of the present day O's.

I'd trade Camden Yards and the present O's for old Memorial Stadium and the 1966 Orioles in a heartbeat.

Other forms of obvious cruelty (than being an O's fan) might be found by anyone seeking misery merely by choosing one of the following:

Wait in any long line under the summer sun for anything.

Mow your lawn in the afternoon sun and use a push mower.

Campaign for office door to door during the hottest part of the day (been there, done that). Drive to and fro without air conditioning.

Insisting on dining outside when the temps exceed 90 without shade (or even with).

Play golf on the weekends in heat exceeding 90 just because it's the only time you can find to play (achieves several of the above miseries and all at once!).

Don't want misery? Why then are you living in Maryland during the summer?

Try following these suggestions:

Always stay in air conditioning, have the repairman on speed dial and burn incense in the memory of the wonderful people that invented it.

Always schedule outside activities during the coolest parts of the day (early and late).

Reserve a lounge chair and umbrella at a quiet poolside for the months of July, August and September.

Watch (in air conditioned comfort) whole seasons of "Lost," "24," "Desperate Housewives," "Dead Like Me" on DVD (or any other past series you might choose).

Avoid exposure to all such situations mentioned in the paragraph above.

Spend the hottest days quietly ensconced with a cool tall drink and a good book.

If you absolutely insist on outdoor activities, there is always that push mower.

Doesn't that brown crunchy lawn look inviting under those shimmering waves of heat? Of course, you could always escape Maryland and take a long Alaskan cruise.

You might even see moose grazing on the riverbanks.

Please note that even moose, which are often regarded as being stubborn and of low intelligence, are never seen in our region during a Maryland summer.

I think that conclusively proves that moose are far smarter than we thought.

After all, we still live here and they moved out thousands of years ago.

Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

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