When the snow hits, people can be seen cutting through the slush, wildly over the speed limit, plowing ahead like they are riding on magical Velcro strips glued to the road. They drive in blissful and reckless ignorance of the fact that they are, in actuality, driving on hard rubber tires that are bound to the laws of entropy. It would be comical if the only casualties of such hubris were said idiots and their steel projectiles. But no, pedestrians assume the crosswalks grant them protection from two tons of automotive steel coming at them across the ice. As soon as the little white dude in the "Walk" sign is truckin', people push off from the curb with nary a glance for cross traffic. Ouch.
So now comes the heat. It was 108 degrees Wednesday, continuing the "hot as the gates of Hell" trend of the last week or so. I thank the gods of air conditioning that I managed to resurrect the antique system in my car before the Willamette Valley became an oven. However, as I drive to work in relative comfort, I see people pedaling by on bicycles with the same aplomb as someone on a cool seashore enjoying a fruit drink with a paper umbrella in it. Unless these cyclists are from an equatorial country, I have to wonder what they're thinking. I have been riding a motorcycle for decades, and yet nothing makes me feel as vulnerable as being on a bicycle on city streets. And, maybe it's just me, but doesn't roasting in such heat during physical exertion tend to slow down ones' mental facilities? Bicycling with altered faculties seems like a really bad idea. And considering that folks in this part of the country see little reason to keep the ol' AC tuned and ready, there are a lot of people driving around in cars hotter than hot-pants, people who would rather be anywhere but in a hot-pants hot car dealing with a sun-addled bicyclist careening down the street being chased by sunstroke. Say goodbye to courtesy. I get the "being green" thing: riding a bike to save wear and tear on The Mother. Heck, we at the Darkside went over to compostable cups (speaking of doing the least you can do). However, I can't help but think that the gas used for the ambulance ride would defeat the bicyclist's intent.
I have a dear friend who loves to eat at Shari's and insists I meet him there when I pass through town on my way to pick up film. (As if an ambulance ride and dining at Shari's has any relation--no, none at all.) Think of it as Denny's with more artificial foliage, and booths that are more comfortable and offer some privacy. Yes, I'm aware that just about everything they serve comes right out of the back of a Sysco truck, but I took a chance on the Pesto Mushroom Grilled Chicken Sandwich and was impressed. My buddy has been going there so long he has an avuncular familiarity with the wait staff. There is little employee turnover at this restaurant, so the help knows what he'll order before he does. By association, I am just as transparent. Usually my iced tea gets to the table before I park the car.
On this particular trip it was hot--damn hot. My friend's mom, who has known me longer than my own parents, spotted us in our booth as she lined up with the rest of her luncheon party. She came over to give me a hug.
There are about ten people in the world for whom I will strenuously watch my damn language. She is two of them. So, with that being said, she knocked over a glass of ice water, right into my lap.
Sweet Sparkling Jesus, that was cold.
It is quite a chore to ease the mortification of someone who has just applied 16 ounces of ice water to your manly bits (or whatever bits you are sporting). I smiled and made light. She apologized. I laughed, and promised I would never write a column about it.
The wait staff was on the scene with assorted absorbent goodies. With the seat of the booth dry, soon I had nothing more than soaked jeans between God and Country. I remained nonchalant as my buddy's mom made for the door with apologies trailing behind her like an embarrassed cloud. As soon as she was out of earshot I speculated I might never pee again. Suddenly the 90+ degree heat outdoors seemed enticing.
Not one to cut a good visit short, I spent a moist couple of hours finishing my sandwich and fries, my buddy's fries, and way too much of that kind of coffee that turbo-charges peristalsis. When the time came to leave, I hoped to make a stealthy exit while no one was at the register to view my wet pants. Since the coast was not clearing, my buddy suggested we go anyway. Never one to waste potential comedy, I said, "Hang on. I gotta get rid of this coffee."
In a few seconds I announced I was done and stood up, exposing my wet pants to the wait staff at the register. With more than a couple of them pretending to avoid looking at my crotch, I said, "Sorry. Diuretics." Then I turned to my buddy and suggested loudly that he leave a big tip to cover the cleanup.
Fortunately, I had a pair of pants in my car, slated for drop-off at Vina Moses. My friend had driven his conversion van to meet with me, so I had a comfy place to change. Soon I was back on the road, with the top half of my body somewhat warmer than the bottom half.
There are less extreme cooling measures than dropping paralyzingly frigid liquids onto your lap. Or the laps of others. I made my way to Robnett's and scored one of those mister kits, like the ones they use at da Vinci days. (I can't remember the brand; it may have been Mr. Mister.) I set it up on the deck and spent an hour with my daughter, Emily, waxing philosophic under the halo of water droplets, blessedly oblivious to the hundred-plus degree heat lurking just beyond. Not an entirely unpleasant way to pass a toasty afternoon.
Of course, the best way to fight the heat is to support your local art house cinema. The Darkside Cinema has the advantage of being situated between the first and third floors of the Book Bin building. It's pretty much a thermostatic cave, making outside fluctuations in temperatures less noticeable. Our air conditioner went south for half a day and no one noticed. Inside the Darkside we're cool, friendly, well stocked with popcorn, and cool.
Not to mention that the ice water is free and refillable. Summer or winter.