How Sweat It Is


The Pacific Northwest experienced a record-breaking heat wave last week, causing Seattle and Portland residents to drink their coffee cold and ingest their marijuana in smoothies. It was 103 degrees in Seattle on Wednesday, the highest temperature ever recorded in that city. And where I live, in Portland, also known as Seattle Junior, we made it to 106 that day, just shy of our all-time record of 107, which goes to show that we can never do anything right.

Of course, when you hear that 103 is the hottest it’s EVER BEEN in a city, you probably think those people are a bunch of wusses, which in the case of Seattle is definitely true. When it’s only 103 in Las Vegas or Phoenix, people send their children to school in sweaters. When it gets below 95, they start singing Christmas carols. When it gets down to 80, they form doomsday cults and warn of the impending Ice Age.

But for Portland, 106 is unreasonably hot, more so because we don’t have the infrastructure to deal with it. Many homes and businesses here don’t have air conditioning at all. With an average summertime high of 80, electric fans and pleasant breezes are enough to get by, plus the fact that it always cools down at night — unlike Las Vegas, where it’s often 115 degrees at 3 a.m., which is why most people who live there take jobs as strippers.

So when it gets over 100 in Portland, the whole city becomes lethargic and irritable. There is no way to escape the heat when it’s that oppressive. The one good thing is that it shuts up the whiners who moved here from somewhere else and immediately started complaining about the rain, which is like moving to Athens and complaining about the loud, swarthy people.

Here are some of the problems associated with a heat wave in Portland.

1. A lot of people around here are earthy types who don’t use deodorant, or who use one of those crystal deodorant stones, which is the same thing as using your imagination. In normal weather, that’s fine. But when the temperatures head into the 90s or low 100s, everyone smells terrible. Combine this with our love for public transportation and you have a light-rail train that smells like a locker room for obese adolescent horses.

2. Most homes don’t have central air-conditioning — which, again, is usually fine. I have an A/C unit that sits in one window that keeps the place comfortable in extremely hot weather, but of course that means I have to keep all the other windows in the house closed. Which means that every smell I create or emit has nowhere to go, and if I can’t open the windows for a few days at a stretch, the apartment starts to smell like a combination of spaghetti and farts.

3. People become crankier when it’s uncomfortably hot, as evidenced by this conversation I had with the scooper at Ben & Jerry’s:

SCOOPER: What can I get for you?

4. The unusually high temperatures have caused the spiders to step up their efforts to get inside my apartment. As you know, my relationship with the neighborhood spiders, while not without its problems, has generally been peaceful. We have a mutual understanding that if they do not enter my house, I will not murder them. Likewise, if I see a spider outdoors, I leave it alone (unless it is in the act of committing a crime).

The spiders are generally content to stay outside, but not last week. Last week I saw more of them than usual lurking in the corners of my apartment, usually remaining perfectly still in the hopes that I wouldn’t see them. Sometimes they would whistle nonchalantly when I walked past. I remained vigilant in my eradication program, with the exception of one particular spider. He was very small, about the size of an ant, and he had situated himself on the ceiling above my kitchen sink. It was so hot, and he was so lazy, that he didn’t even bother to spin a web. He just sat there, apparently hoping some food would wander past and fall into his mouth. To get rid of him, I’d have had to stand on the kitchen counter, and I felt the same way about that as the spider did about building a web.

Sooooo hot. Sooooo lazy.

Still, I didn’t want word getting around that I had relaxed my policies. Far from it! I had simply made a temporary exception. But the last thing you want is to appear soft, especially against a species that outnumbers you. So I pointed up at this spider, and I said in a stern tone, “You’re living on borrowed time, my friend.” But my heart wasn’t in it. The spider knew, and I knew, that there was no way I was going to be climbing up on that kitchen counter anytime soon.

So he sat there, in the same spot, for two days. I thought he might be dead, but no, he occasionally twitched a little. He just didn’t feel like going anywhere. That was something he and I had in common, that and our ability to capture prey with things we shot out of our butts. Then one day I noticed he was gone, and I had no idea where he’d skittered off to. He’s probably lurking in a cereal box now, waiting for a chance to alarm me when I least expect it, knowing, as he does, that breakfast time is usually when I least expect things. I fear now that his endearing “laziness” may have been a ruse to keep me off-guard while he devised a more sinister plan.

Curse that spider and his ingenuity! Why am I always being outsmarted by things with more legs than me?? I need to go relax with a weed milkshake.

I include unsavory descriptions of my living quarters and personal habits in order to dissuade readers from falling in love with me.

Oh, and the line ending "...the same thing as using your imagination" was stolen from a friend of mine who doesn't write an Internet column and thus has no use for funny lines. Thanks, anonymous non-Internet-writer friend!