THE TV – “Boy, is it hot out there,” says the weatherman who is obviously just arrived from Montana. Hey, pilgrim, it’s summer in Texas. Of course it’s hot. If we weren’t really broiling we would be panicked with fear of global spinning. How hot is it? It’s so hot David Dewhurst is cuddling up to Dan Patrick just to get a cold shoulder. It’s so hot Texans are lined up to drink the Kool-Aid. It’s so hot the coolest people are bipolar. (Don’t you miss Jay Leno?) Yes, it is summer in Texas, the time when everybody who is anybody — read: energy CEOs — are in Aspen.
The rest of us peons must endure, although our own petty sweats don’t compare to those of the citizens of Seymour (Seymourites? Seymoreians?) 180 miles northwest of Dallas. On Aug. 12, 1936, the thermometer in Seymour hit 120 degrees. That 120 mark was reached again in Monahans, 45 miles southwest of Midland, on June 29, 1994. Actually, I didn’t know there was anything 45 miles southwest of Midland. Those readings still stand as records, although the inside of my car beats that figure after an hour on the parking lot of my exclusive boutique, Samuel’s Club. We recently survived the warmest year in Texas: 2011 with 86.6 degrees. Something about global cooling. How cold was it? Just to cool us off, the coldest winter in Texas was 1898-1899 with 42.5 degrees. Individually, on Feb. 12, 1899, in Tulia, it got down to minus 23 degrees. Seminole equaled that minus 23 on Feb. 8, 1933.
Let’s talk wind. Matagorda and Port Lavaca were hit by Hurricane Carla on Sept, 11, 1961, and saw winds of 145 mph. That’s nothing compared to what Aransas Pass experienced on Aug. 3, 1970, with peak gusts of 180 mph. Speaking of wind, since 1950, there have been six tornadoes in Texas recorded in the F5 category, that is, with winds between 261-318 mph. They hit Waco, Wichita Falls, Lubbock, Valley Mills (just outside Waco), Brownwood and Jarrell (Williamson County). This reminds me, summer is not all heat, drought and tornadoes. Often they are broken up by hurricanes.
Right now, however, we are suffering through the Dog Days of Summer. The season begins each year about July 3 and ends on Aug. 11. They were so named by ancient Egyptian and Greek TV weathermen to cover the 20 days before, to 20 days after, the conjunction of Sirius, the dog star, and the sun. But Texans know our actual dog days run from Easter to Halloween, and we are trying to stay cool during that time. If you just arrived here from Nome you may be wondering, “How do you all (preferably y’all) stand this summer heat?” We don’t. We have air conditioned homes, offices, cars, malls, football, basketball and baseball stadiums, polo fields and horse racing tracks. We have vacationing neighbors who didn’t lock the backyard gate to their swimming pool. As for outdoor labor, we have DREAM students who will mow our lawns under threat of deportation. Or follow the lead of fellow Houstonian Howard Hughes and watch “Ice Station Zebra” all day and night.
I was just kidding about the air conditioned houses, but if you did hold out for some cooler air in your Texas abode, here again is our annual list of tricks we native-borns have discovered. First, let’s debunk the myth that we should leave the air conditioner (hereafter known as the a/c) at the same temperature when we leave the house or apartment or cellblock in the morning because, the theory goes, it takes more electricity to chill down the hot house when we return in the afternoon. Wrong. Lower the temperature on that empty lean-to when you leave and save big bux. This is assuming that you have somewhere else to go during the day, like school, a job or simply casing other people’s houses. Hint: If a house has the a/c going during the day, the owner may be taking our advice or at home holding a shotgun waiting for burglars.
Most of us like our bedroom to be cooler when we sleep, so we turn down the temp at night when we hit the sack. But remember, half or more of your summer electric bill is the cost of running your a/c, and each degree below 78 will increase your energy cost by 3 to 6 percent. Recommendations: never sleep, or stuff your pillow with ice, turn your temperature up and turn your calendar to January. Works for me. This raises a question: which do you say? “It’s hot in here. Turn the a/c up.” Or: “It’s hot in here. Turn the a/c down.”
Ceiling fans (those are people who cheer for ceilings) can make you think the room is cooler. All fans really do is churn up the hot air, but your skin doesn’t know that. If your a/c is more than, say, 50 years old, it’s costing you a lot to run. Upgrade to a window unit which you can find at that vacationing neighbor’s house. Insulate your house. This can be done by putting it inside another house. Incidentally, another way to save big bux: When you leave a room, turn off the lights. Like the a/c recommendation when you’re away, it only takes a small amount more electricity to fire up the lights again. So unless you plan on returning to that room within 3 seconds, turn off the lights when you leave.
Some like it cold: In summer, newcomer, take a sweater to any restaurant. The cooks, waiters and bus people are in charge of the thermostat. They are hot and sweaty – note the drops on your bread plate – and like it freezing. Same for the theater — those pole dancers work up a sweat. Finally, a suggestion to beat the summer heat: move to Seymour. It will feel so cool when you return.
Ashby stays cool at firstname.lastname@example.org