A Heat Index of 107°
I need a daily walk (and caffeinated beverage) each afternoon during the work week. Weather conditions rarely prohibit me from wanting to move, clear my mind and escape the buzz of the corporate environment. Columbus, Ohio, like much of middle America, has had an exceptionally hot summer, gripped with frequent heat index warnings and plenty of advice to preserve water, stay hydrated and find shade. July 6, 2012 may have been the hottest day of the year with a heat index that exceeded triple digits and weighed heavily on everyone who ventured outside.
In Search of Relief
I paused by a medium-sized tree next to a bus stop located on High Street between Long and Broad.
Voice (Jiving) : “Do you think that shade is doing you any good?”
Me : “Not at all. There’s a heat index of 107 today.”
Voice (Informing) : “And the temperature is going to be 100 tomorrow! But next week it will be getting down into the 80s.”
Me : “I’m more of a mid-70s guy, but I’ll take 80s over this any day.”
Voice (Inquiring) : “Would you know where I can find a pool?”
Me : “Downtown? There is always the fountains on the riverfront…”
Voice (Laughing) : “No, I’ll get kicked out of there for sure! I’ll get patted down and taken away!”
Me : “You should just run through! And then keep on running!”
Voice (Pointing) : “I am staying over there, they have a pool.”
Me : “The Y?”
Voice (Confirming) : “Yes. You know? The water in my room is warm! My soda pops can’t stay cool in the fridge!”
Me : “Do you mean the fridge in your room?”
Voice (Grinning) : “They told me they gave me The Presidential Suite too!”
We continued to make comments about the heat even as we gradually took steps away from each other. Incessant heat can literally slap the face, punch the gut, and swell feet and hands. Voice, a man who was obviously uncomfortable and with few options, was beaten yet cheery. He mumbled something about his citizenship while gripping his a duffel bag. He didn’t ask me for pity or money or a hand out. I think he just wanted relief in the form of a brief human connection. I find that extreme weather conditions often loosen our social and cultural inhibitions. It seems to become apparent that we are in this uncomfortable situation together no matter where we are in our personal lives. Many people like Voice take the brunt of these hard conditions and must literally survive. Just as a swimming pool relieves the physical body, a simple conversation may bring relief to the anxious mind.
Bus Strike Averted
Intense heat, wicked storms and the aftermath of the 4th of July celebration turned Columbus into a woozy ghost town. Activity seemed designated exclusively to the bus stops located along the city’s main thoroughfares.
Suddenly, it occurred to me that the COTA (Central Ohio Transit Authority) bus drivers, mechanics and maintenance workers had just returned to work after a brief strike that lasted 3 days. What did this mean? People who depend on COTA were able to move and resume their lives. I find that many Americans who are not familiar with large metropolitan areas where public transportation is a common necessity view it as a hindrance, an inconvenient option and far too intimidating to use.
Temporary Shaded Reprieve
The Ohio Statehouse was quiet. The Occupy Ohio rallying tent was still (unoccupied). Pedestrians walked slowly, some stopping to congregate in the shade under the Riffe Center.
The afternoon’s heat index muted conversations and silenced the noise along High Street. All eyes in the shade seemed to fixate on the blinding, open concrete as if it’s surface was a calm sea ready to boil.
Out of the Sun
Usually a fixture on the corner of High and State, a disgruntled, worn down man in a wheelchair struggled to find solace in the shade. With his limp hand, he wrapped and unwrapped bandages on his arm trying to get them to stick but with no luck.