Autumn equinox is this coming Saturday, September 23. Here in Arizona's Verde Valley the overnight temperatures have already been dropping to the 60s-50s. The mornings are noticeably cooler; the sunlight slanting and the daylight hours are a little shorter every day. This past July was brutal for everyone; in Arizona folks south of here had it especially rough. Our monsoon got a late start, for a while it looked as if it might not show up at all. Up here at least, it was more or less normal for us. Summers here always get really hot. It can be awful, but we know to expect it.
This has been happening for many years. The triple digit temperatures are pretty normal for us. Miserable, yes, but normal even so. Or at least, normal since humans decided to pave over huge swathes of the desert in concrete and asphalt. Creating what is called a heat island. That we have known about this phenomenon for some time and yet continue to build more developments, pave more roads, bring in more cars to clog those roads, and place more demands on a dwindling water supply simply boggles the mind.
This summer I saw and heard (not here, thankfully) more than a few fellow Arizonans joke about the way the rest of the country was suffering with the heat. Along the lines of, "Oh, poor babies. It's a hundred-plus degrees? Ha ha. Welcome to summer like we have every single year!" That did not sit well with me at all. Most of us here have long been aware of what summer heat can be like, and have some sort of ways to cope with it. We've known about living with triple-digit temperatures for decades. The memes I saw, the jokes I heard, were snarky and mean-spirited at best. They sure as hell weren't funny. In temperatures like these, people who can't get cooled down are not just miserable. They can die. They certainly do here. It's the reason why the Arizona Corporation Commission made it so the electric companies couldn't disconnect people for nonpayment during the hot season. People who were unable to pay to run their air conditioning were getting ill and dying in their homes when they were disconnected for having a past due balance. Every summer brings a spike in deaths among the homeless, who have no air conditioning at all. Every single year.
What I don't understand is how anyone could see the same kind of suffering happening to people in other states, and laugh about it. With the exception of the Native Americans here, all of us came from somewhere else. It's been nearly thirty years, but I haven't forgotten what a shock it was, to go from summers in San Diego- all I'd ever known- to summers in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Those first few years, I wasn't sure I could continue. Triple-digit temperatures made me genuinely ill every time I stepped outside for longer than thirty minutes. If I hadn't eventually come north to where I am now, well, I don't know. It really doesn't bear thinking about.
It's still hard for me, but at least these days I don't have to sit at a bus stop for half an hour twice a day, while working at places like dry cleaners or restaurant kitchens.
On one occasion I overheard a conversation about how folks in the rest of the country just need to suck it up, quit complaining and buy an air conditioner. I saw red. Once my Irish is up I have difficulty keeping quiet, and I did butt in with my 2¢ worth. Arizona actually has hurricanes come through from time to time. They generally bring high-ish winds, some amount of rain, and then leave. They don't flatten and submerge entire communities. I said, suppose a hurricane did to us what they do to places like Florida and Louisiana? How would you feel knowing that people in Jacksonville or New Orleans were laughing at our predicament?
That earned me a dirty look, but no reply. Which is probably just as well.
My heart hurts for the millions who found themselves dealing with the sort of weather that I had to either learn to cope with somehow, or live elsewhere. The millions who had no prior experience of prolonged intense heat, and few if any ways to deal with it. I've been living with it for decades now, and I'm still not entirely used to it. But I at least had some advance warning before coming to Arizona. And even the crummiest places I lived in had some sort of cooling system.
Everyone has heard the expression, "misery loves company". But damn, does it have to be true?
May this coming Autumn be kind to us all. May we be kind to each other.
Thank you for reading. This is an open thread, all topics are welcome.