Weathering the Weather Around the World
This and similar memes have been going around my Facebook feed the last couple days. It’s probably only funny – or freaking frustrating! – if you live in Phoenix, have escaped the inferno that is Phoenix, or know someone who still slogs through 27 months of summer in the Valley of the Sun. Sure, it sounds petty when you stack it up against blizzards and other cold-weather challenges, but month after month of searing heat weighs on you. Unless you’re one of those freaks who mountain bikes or hikes in the middle of the day in – literally – 120-degree heat.
I grew up in Phoenix, moved south to Tucson (where it’s anywhere from 5 to 15 degrees cooler) for college, and then moved to the East Coast in the early ’90s. I moved back to Phoenix in December 1999 – and spent nearly all of the year 2000 in an extraordinarily cranky mood. It wasn’t until the heat broke near the end of October that I realized what the problem had been: I was hot. And I’d forgotten what Phoenix summers were like – especially without air conditioning.
Yep – I grew up and was living in a house with what we locals call a swamp cooler. It’s a setup more formally known as evaporative cooling, where a fan blows air on wet pads, which circulates cool air throughout the house. This is actually a very good system for a lot of the year because everything you’ve heard about the “dry heat” of Arizona is true – except for the monsoon season. The problem is that swamp coolers stop working when the humidity hits much above 20 percent. (Although an article on air-n-water.com says they work up to 50 percent humidity – that was never my experience!) So back to the heat – I was miserable. But over the last 17 years, I’ve become reaccustomed to summers in Arizona. I don’t think I’ll ever love them, but the heat no longer puts me into a murderous rage.
The interesting thing is that once we’ve been in a place for a while, we learn what to expect. We know that summers in Arizona aren’t just hot – they go on for what seems like forever. Those from the Pacific Northwest know that they have to capitalize on the rare sunny day because they’re few and far between. The Midwest prepares for tornado season as best it can, while residents of the Gulf states know that hurricanes take their sharpest aim at them from late August through September.
Stan, the main character in my novel, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World, travels from New Jersey all the way around the world, and finds himself in a wide variety of weather, some of which he’s expecting, and some of which nothing can prepare him for. He needs extra layers in Greenland in May and a bathing suit in Brisbane in February. Because he’s carrying only a rucksack with him, his clothing options are limited, so he must shop for specific apparel as he needs it, and sell or donate it as he finishes with it.
What if we had to carry our whole wardrobe on our back? Could we do it? I’m sure I’d figure it out if the choice was learning minimalism or staying home, but it’d be a steep learning curve, to be sure.
The good news for Stan is that he makes it. And the good news for us in Phoenix is that while the daytimes are still crazy hot, the nights are becoming temperate and wonderful. Send a shout-out if you’re ever in the area and want to get together for a chai latte at my favorite indie shop.
Laura’s first novel, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World is forthcoming in early 2018. Watch here for updates – and prepurchase your signed copy here.