But it's a fry heat: Cool tips for newbies
My family moved to Arizona when I was 14, which qualifies me as nearly a native. Usually, you can't tell us longtime Arizonans from the newer arrivals, but when the mercury bubbles past 110 degrees, the professionals stand out from the amateurs by how we deal with the summer heat.
You really don't ever get used to the triple-digit heat, no matter how long you live here and even when you start saying that 100 isn't that bad and knowing that hot water always comes out of your cold tap. But you do adapt.
This past week has been the hottest of the year so far, with temperatures hitting 111, 112, 113 and 114. Those of us who have been living in this hellacious heat for a while know the best ways to get through the summer. It's a distinctively Arizona lifestyle. Pay attention and you may learn something.
In the car, we drive with just two fingers on the sizzling steering wheel and our elbows cocked outward so that the air-conditioning can blast right up our shirtsleeves.
We clench 32-ounce ThirstBusters between our legs as we travel through the haze coming off the asphalt, not because we're so thirsty, but because it keeps us cooler. With my son out of school for the summer, I tuck the ice packs from his lunch box under my thighs. Talk about a big chill.
We race from our air-conditioned cars into our air-conditioned offices with the military precision of commandos. Our mission is to get to our desks before our makeup melts off our faces and the sweat pools around our pumps.
Against conventional wisdom about light-colored clothing being cooler, we wear black when it's 112 degrees so no one can tell how sweaty we are. (If I wore, say, pale blue, I'd look like I'd been hosed down by the time I got to the office at 8am.)
We take two showers a day, one in the morning and one at night, switch to sweat-proof mascara and cotton underwear, moisturize with sunscreen and pull our hair into ponytails, twists or top knots and leave it there all summer.
We drink gallons of cold water and venture out only in the evening hours, like vampires. We ride bikes at twilight, do our grocery shopping after dark and mow the lawn by porch light. (Just don't use the weed whacker in the dark. Trust me.)
We judge a good parking space not by how close it is to the mall but by the wisp of shade thrown by the pitiful parking-lot tree. I don't even get out of the car once it's cooled down if I can help it. In my neighborhood, I can get coffee, deposit a check, mail my bills, return library books, buy ice and even a bottle of wine by zipping through drive-throughs.
At home, we eat salads and cold sandwiches for dinner, and if we must cook, we grill outside, watching the chicken's progress through the French doors. (I don't gt near my huge, vintage Wedgewood gas-burning stove. If it doesn't fit in the toaster oven, I don't cook it in the summer.)
When we get home, we make a beeline from the driveway, through the house and into the swimming pool.
If we don't have a pool, we borrow the neighbor's: Hey, don't mind us. No, we're not here for dinner. Just a dip in the pool.
Come summer, we'll stand rather than sit on anything vinyl car seats, barstools, even the dentist's chair. Sit on vinyl and you're guaranteed a heat rash.
At restaurants, when the hostess offers us a chance to sit outdoors on the patio, pointing out the misting system, we don't fall for it. We're not tourists. Sit outside under a mister and you'll still be hot -- and damp. It feels like someone is sweating on you.
We worship the air-conditioning. Well, at least until October, when the temperature drops below 90 degrees and we reach for a sweatshirt. Until then, be cool.