Wednesday, August 6, 2014
I hate heat, so this is not my favorite season. Actually, in South Carolina we have only two seasons: Hot, and Christmas. It’s not Christmas.
I hail from coastal North Carolina, and thought I knew hot when I moved here in 1990. Ha! I didn’t know eyebrows could actually sweat. I didn’t know a seat belt buckle could blister your stomach.
But don’t take my word for it. My beloved brother, T-Bob, has lived in steamy South Florida for 25 years. Yet the first time he stepped off a plane in Charleston (in August), he mopped his brow at curbside, saw my car and bellowed: “MY GOD! SISTER! BRING ME WATER!” Everyone—skycaps, pedestrians, cabbies – looked around for a nun, but it was just frizzy-headed me in a sweaty t-shirt.
I once knew a guy who roofed houses all over the Deep South. Think black tarpaper, blazing sun, sticky-hot shingles. A truly tough gig. The only time he passed out was in Charleston, at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday. (It’s funny what the mind recalls.) “I was reaching for a water bottle when everything went black,” he said.
He woke up in the back of a van with two 10-pound bags of ice covering his body. He ate a few cubes and went back to work, which I guess is what roofers do. I could never be a roofer. I could never be a lot of things in the dog days of summer.
Public health officials have plenty of tips on how to beat the heat. Hydrate, take breaks in the shade and, if possible, stay indoors between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. (Interestingly, I have never seen a golf course deserted between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Golfers must know tricks we don’t.)
Here are a few more tips for coping with the beastly, skin-crawling hotness that we call summer in the lowcountry.
• Go to Paris. It may be just as hot, but at least you’ll be in Paris.
• Nap in a hammock on the porch under whirring ceiling fans. If you have no hammock (or porch, or ceiling fans), borrow a neighbor’s. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
• Eat frozen seedless grapes.
• Change your bed and crawl into the blissful comfort of cool, crisp sheets.
• Drink unsweetened iced tea. Sweet tea is over-rated. It rots your teeth and doesn’t provide the refreshing “snap” that unsweetened tea does.
• Lie prone on a hardwood floor and read “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Not only because it’s a classic, but because Harper Lee nails the description of summertime in the south. Sweaty frosted teacakes, indeed.
• Don’t fight the torpor. Stay in your house. Post a sign on your door that says “Emerging in October.”
• Thank God and Willis Carrier (who invented air conditioning in 1902) that you don’t live in the Victorian era when women wore corsets and taffeta dresses to sit in stifling parlors, and men wore long sleeves and vests to work in warehouses.
• Gulp some icy-cold cucumber water. (Slice a cucumber and add to one gallon of spring water. Keep in fridge. Some people add rosemary or dill, but that’s gilding the lily.)
• Climb a shady tree and read a book in the sun-dappled silence. Just don’t blame me if you fall out and break a leg.
• Slice, salt and pepper a fresh tomato. Place between two slices of white bread thickly spread with Miracle Whip. Gobble it in your underwear in front of a window fan. (For all you Duke’s mayo fans out there, calm down. It’s too hot to get riled up.)
Julie R. Smith, who also likes an icy lemon foot bath, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.