With the long, lingering, loitering winter finally over – maybe, possibly – and today’s predicted high of 90° Fahrenheit, my mind turns with trepidation to the hot, sticky, City summer to come. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “hey, you think you’ve got it bad, you should try the summer where I live.” Well, my friend, I’ve got news for you: unless you live between the latitudinal Tropics of Cancer or Capricorn, I can at least guarantee you a run for your money. Here’s how it breaks down.
You: Go from your centrally air-conditioned house, to your air-conditioned car, to your air-conditioned office.
I: Go from my single, window-mounted air conditioner “cooled” apartment, the three blocks to my always moist, though possibly cooler but usually blisteringly hot subway platform, to, if I’m lucky, my blissfully air-conditioned subway, walk 20 minutes across town in whatever heat and humidity the morning gods have seen fit to smite me with, to my blessedly centrally air-conditioned office.
It doesn’t pay to take a day off in the summer because the minute that you step out of the slip stream of cool air blowing from the window-mounted air conditioner, you know, to go to the bathroom or get a drink, the ambient room temperature shoots up a good fifteen degrees and the sweating begins again. Sleeping involves a pathetic attempt to bend the cool air 180° from the air conditioner in the living room around the wall and into my bedroom through the cunning use and strategic placement of a box fan. Results are inconclusive as to whether this actually works.
You: Live on a piece of land that may or may not be close to a body of water.
I: Live on an island between two rivers populated with literally millions of other people. I am unable to get away from the water if I tried. Or people.
Humidity assaults me winter, spring, summer or fall. At this point I feel almost amphibian. Is it any wonder that when I make my annual pilgrimage to the arid West my nasal passages shrivel up and die like a slug on a salt lick?
You: Think “hey, let’s go see the free movie showing outside at Bryant Park!”
I: Think “oooo, you said the F-word: F-R-E-E.”
“Free” has come to be a dirty, four-letter word in my personal lexicon. It’s ironic that, in a city of literally millions of people, we have such an issue with, and do our damnedest to avoid, being touched by another human being. Even in the briefest of incidental brushings of bags or clothing. You’d think that if you’ve consciously chosen to live in a place that you knew going in was one of the most populated cities ON THE PLANET, you’d come to expect a little accidental physical contact from complete strangers. But, my God, you wouldn’t believe the way I’ve seen some people lose it over invading their personal space and, God forbid, actually making accidental physical contact. What the hell do you want from me lady?! It’s rush hour!
The math of “Free” breaks down like this: You hear of something free going on, let’s say free movies under the stars being shown in Bryant Park behind the Main Public Library building on 42nd St. and 5th Ave. In a city of 8 million people, let’s say about half of them have the same idea. This leaves 4 million people interested in going. Of those, let’s say half are smart enough to realize what a pain in the ass it will be with all those people and choose not to go. That leaves 2 million people. Of those, let’s say that 3/4 of them have to work during the day and won’t be able to go stand in line to wait for the lawn to open (p.s. – you would not believe the amount of people who DON’T go to work every day in this town. I have no idea how the hell they can afford to pay the rent to live here. And I wish they’d share the secret). That leaves you with 500,000 people still interested in going to sit on a blanket on a lawn packed shoulder to shoulder with every other person they could squeeze in to that half block area, the process of which involves standing in line for hours before the space even opens so you can be sure to get yourself a good spot (or any spot, frankly), and THEN waiting a good hour or two before the movie even starts in an effort to make sure you give everybody ample time to come, sit, eat, DRINK, and otherwise prepare. And don’t even ask about the bathroom situation. Because I have no idea. And all for a movie that you’ve already seen, probably have sitting on your shelf at home, or, if you don’t, could get from Netflix within 48 hours and watch in a comfortable, climate-controlled environment where you control the horizontal, the vertical, stop, rewind, fast forward, AND have easy and exclusive access to a clean, private and semi-spacious bathroom. Like I said, “free” is a dirty, four-letter word.
Again, I know what you’re thinking: “If this is the hell you willingly subject yourself to every year (dumb ass), what is it that you do to survive this madness?” You may well ask. And I’ll tell you: I sweat. A lot. I never knew I could get tired of sweating until I moved to the City. But I can. And I do. Every year.
I also take advantage of any free air conditioning I can possibly get my hands on. This means at the office, the movie theater, the coffee shop, even walks in the park under the trees can manage to find you a few degrees of cool without having to pay for it in some way, shape or form. But for the most part, I hibernate. Right there in the slipstream that courses over the reclining sofa in my living room in front of the large screen, flat panel TV. Here I control the horizontal; I control the vertical. And, funny enough, there’s never a line for the bathroom.