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Beset by two bullies: Sun, humidity

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Posted: Monday, July 28, 2003 10:00 pm

Uncontrolled burning continues without pause around here this week, as the sun releases its fury on unwary scalps and shoulders.

This would be enough, as longtime California residents recognize this as a normal characteristic of local summers.

Other characteristics include news reporters making serious faces about a heightened wildfire danger, even if they are standing in three feet of water, and a state budget dipped in molasses, routed through a Blockbuster Video line and delivered by arthritic sloths.Ben van der Meer

But until this last week, the people in charge of weather - I believe this is the United Nations, at least since World War II. Before that it was the Hapsburgs and Rockefellers, intermittently - were content to keep us Golden Skin State types in a slow-cook oven from June through October, until the insides were cooked just enough to dull us into watching the "entertainment" provided in the fall by TV networks.

What changed everything is the bit of meteorological frivolity found in the southern United States last week, when Hurricane Claudette (there is a requirement in International Hulk-sized Tropical Storm Naming that the truly notable ones - Hugo, Iniki, Andrew - must sound like foreign exchange students) took a stroll through the neighborhood and did some roofing work.

The generosity of hurricanes, though, is endless, because after Claudette huffed and blew and then collapsed, like a Democratic presidential campaign, it did decide to generously donate some humidity to the swelter-deprived West Coast.

Humidity is a fun concept where the United Nations set the general climate to "sauna" for some areas and then broke the knob. They are still debating who broke the knob and what to do about it. In the meantime, many places are oppressively humid during the summer, to the extent that swamp coolers, a weird crossbreed appliance that mixes air conditioning with a small pond, are rather popular with many folks in humid places.

Even swamp coolers, though, are capable of only so much relief in especially humid climates. A few years ago, I spent about an hour in Florida, where the humidity and the Cuban exiles compete to see who can be more oppressive and obnoxious. The hour was spent dashing back and forth through airport terminals while trying to determine whether my luggage had actually been exchanged, like a prisoner of war ("Put the Persian in the pet container on the tarmac and back away!"), between two different airlines I was using.

When you have sprinted a distance of about 100 yards four times through humidity strong enough to steal your wallet, you begin to ponder the greatness of the climate in places like Reykjavik, which is where I believe my luggage went.

These conditions created a one-two punch in this part of the state, where the two bullies of sun and humidity gave residents a figurative kick in the groin and followed it with a figurative overhand chop to the neck, and even normal figurative bodyguards, such as ice cream and air conditioning, became figurative ineffective wussies.

Thankfully, I can recommend a few measures that will help you cope with this weather. If they don't, you're doing them wrong:

  • Abandon styling gel, and instead, dip your comb or brush into a large bottle of Coppertone, applying liberally. This is specifically aimed at delusional men like myself who have yet to accept a decrease in head top cover - also known as hair - and end up with peeling scalps mistaken for dandruff storms ("Hurricane Suave").
  • In your normal laundry pattern, skip drying. Cool, damp undergarments will make you smile as others suffer. Discontinue if a freak case of summer pneumonia develops. Or mold.
  • Keep a small coterie of filled water balloons at the ready, and drop them on your head on occasion - in public, if possible. Feel free to also fling them at strangers, in the name of sharing cool, sudden relief. In more extreme instances, sacks of ice, swung like hearty golf clubs, can also be effective.
  • Set any and all thermostats to "Minnesota." Be prepared for complaints from women, if you work with any.

Above all else, remember that in our modern world, we have ways to deal with weather that make life easier. Such as writing angry letters to the United Nations. I would tell you who to write to specifically, but the heat makes me forget.

Ben van der Meer is the news editor of the Tracy Press.

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