Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Summer of '88

Yesterday's high temperature was in the 90s. The humidity level was around 70%. Heat plus humidity equals the usual DC summer. I've grown accustomed to the DC summer; in fact I've pretty much grown up with it.

Yes, air conditioning eases the pain, but I haven't forgotten what it was like to live without the comfort of cool, compressed air.

I spent one summer during graduate school as a messenger. I didn't have the guts and coordination to be a bike messenger so I settled for a job behind the wheel of my 1985 red Ford Escort. It was my first car. That means it was cheap ($8,000) and had absolutely no bells or whistles. Okay, it had a tape player. It didn't have A/C, rear window defrost, or automatic transmission. It had windows that were rolled down by hand, two doors without automatic locks and a roomy hatchback trunk.

I drove from office to office throughout the summer picking up packages and dropping them off. Driving in the city didn't offer much chance go faster than 25 mph, meaning it was tough to get a breeze going with my windows cranked open. It was a hot, sweaty summer.

It was the same summer that my grandmother was in the hospital undergoing surgery for cancer. She was in Baltimore, about 40 miles away from my home in Arlington. I made the drive up 295 to see her when I could-sweating my way through the heat that came with rush hour traffic. At one point I was at my wits end. It was close to 100 degrees and I couldn't face the thought of another trip in the red, hot car. Fortunately, my housemate came through and offered up her A/C-equipped Subaru.

What a difference cool air makes. I made my way up to Baltimore smiling at the jammed up traffic. Yes, I was living life on the other side, but I didn't forget where I'd come from. Whenever other cars would try to inch their way in front of me to keep moving I always let the ones without A/C get right in. I knew how much they needed the air circulation.


  1. Funny how our memories work. That humidity and heat pushed you back to '88 & that car & that job & your grandmother. I liked the way you hooked them all together, being very appreciative of the a/c, both then & now.

  2. I don't miss the humidity and heat of that other Washington -but it has been a bit cold and wet this spring in the other Washington.

  3. Hopefully you won't ever have to live without AC ever again. I like the heat but appreciate the cool air too.

  4. I liked your details. It is no fun driving and being hot and sweaty.