Here in Alabama, however, summer (as in the hottest time of the year) began at the end of April. That’s when the humidity and the temperature both began creeping up their respective scales. By Friday, the day that summer started astrologically, we reached temperatures in the low to mid 90’s. The humidity hit 150% before Memorial Day and stayed there.
I normally don’t mind this too much, since air-conditioning is a fact of life down here. (My family once was told by a car salesman that in Alabama, he wouldn’t buy a bicycle without it.) Our house is air-conditioned, our cars are air-conditioned, and my work is air-conditioned. Between Memorial Day and August 31, I plan my day so that, as often as possible, I am going from the air-conditioned house to the air-conditioned car to the air-conditioned office or store or restaurant.
But we went to the beach for Father's Day weekend. And when we got home, the air conditioner definitely had stopped working. Which wouldn’t have been so weird, except that the air conditioner in the condominium we rented for the weekend at the beach had also gone out during the night. Not to worry, we thought—we purchased a home warranty so people will come fix things when they break. Until I called the home warranty people early Sunday afternoon and failed to reach a living breathing human being. Instead, I discussed our service needs with a decidedly unsympathetic machine that informed me that the soonest a repairman could get out to our house was Tuesday between 8 and 6.
That Sunday and Monday turned out to be the hottest days in the year so far. Even with two room air conditioners going the best we could get the house at during the day was 95. We reached the chilly temperature of 80 at night. (Why do we have two room air conditioners when we have central AC? That’s a post for another day.)
Suffering through those two longest days of summer (even though technically it was still spring) reminded me that time is relative. The parts of those two days spent at the house stretched on forever, while the hours spent elsewhere in air-conditioning moved at a normal pace. Time is a matter of perception.
Which is a very good thing for readers and writers. Without the human mind’s ability to compress and extend time, writers wouldn’t be able to sweep their readers into fictional worlds for a day, a week or a lifetime. So even on a hot summer’s day without air-conditioning, I still had a way to leave my present circumstances and travel far away—through a good book.
When does your summer start? What is the hottest summer day you’ve had so far? What are the books you reach for when you want to escape into another world?