Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Paging Susie Snowflake

Heat. Everywhere. No escape. It creeps in under the drawn windowshade, laughs at the feeble warning shot from the air conditioner, and runs its sticky tongue down your neck to the base of your spine.

A simple three-block walk to the subway stretches to ten shimmering miles. The exposed subway platform is so hot that sap and tar ooze from the wooden planks. Your shoes fry as you wait for the train, delayed due to overheated and malfunctioning signals somewhere in the Loop. The train arrives, overcrowded. Everybody on in your car stinks.

Sleepy silence reigns until a woman's bare, sweaty shoulder smacks up against the impossibly crisp white shirt of a businessman. The businessman, aghast, calls the woman a pig. The woman shakes her hair and drops of sweat fly across his face, his glasses, his briefcase. He screams. Then the woman reaches out to embrace him in a moist hug. His face takes on the violent contortions of a damned soul in a mediaeval altarpiece.

You trudge the mile from the train to your office. Your brain, liquifying, conjures perverted fantasies in which ice and snow are put to uses not intended by nature.



You are startled from these bright visions by the sounds of yelling. The owner of the bookstore is yelling at a homeless man. A motorist is yelling at a cop. A mother is yelling at her children. The children simply yell.

You arrive at the office and find that painters have been contracted to touch up the walls. Today. Out of the three hundred and sixty five days in which, theoretically, painting could be done, this day has been chosen.

The painters insist on working with the windows open. There are no window screens. You attempt to focus on work as the temperature climbs into the nineties and a plague of nasty, heat-loving swamp insects gathers on your monitor.

You ask if you might work from home and are told no, you may not, as the university does not cease normal operations due to the vagaries of climate. You hear the air conditioner in the boss's office kick into high gear as he hangs up the telephone.

Your coworkers smack wildly at the swarming locusts and flies. The smell of paint hangs in the air like a fog.

You wonder if this is a health and safety violation and decided to consult the OSHA Web site, but are so disoriented from huffing secondhand latex fumes that you cannot remember how to spell OSHA.

A normally mild-mannered, elderly coworker tells the painter she is going to turn on the ceiling fan and he is just going to have to deal with it. He tells her she can't as he needs to work on the ceiling. She calls him a "motherfucker."

You turn back to the Panama Canal article and find yourself staring at the water in the accompanying photograph. The blue, blue water. The blue, cool, clear water. So much water. In your mind, you strip off your clothes and dive into the water and suck it into the red-hot coils of your lungs.

The painter and the coworker are locked in an escalating battle of words that promises to turn physical. You wonder what exactly would happen if a gallon of Navajo white were poured over the CPU of a Mac G5. You find the idea of being dipped into a stream of nice, cool Navajo white alluring.

Somehow, you have moved from your chair onto the floor. It's cooler down here.

The darkness under the desk beckons to you. Cooler still under there. So dark, so cool. If you just bend your legs a little, you can fit completely under the desk. Ah.

You curl up, thumb in mouth. You close your eyes, and wait for November.

29 comments:

Aidan said...

I am with you, Brother. I am with you. To keep cool today I am planning my dream vacation to Lake Placid.

Rosie said...

Noooo! I cannot believe that you are paging Susie Snowflake. I work in a gift store in the UK and Susie Snowflake crops up every Xmas on our retro music CDs. She has crept under my skin and I find myself (in lunch breaks, on the bus on the way home) singing under my breath :"f*** off Susie Snowflake". I do understand the trauma of too much heat but gimme rain, lots of rain (sung to the tune of "gimme land, lots of land") and not susie. Sure she's a really nice lady and all that, but that dratted tune is now lodged in my brain. ARRGH. Still, the heatwave has broken here in Eastern England and we have had rain, lots of rain...

Mel said...

I don't remember C having such a pointy nose. And why is he wearing a scarf in this heat?

I'm so glad I live by the ocean.

marylee said...

The only thing for it? Shop for wool.

Erica said...

We just went through the same thing here in Seattle...hang on, it'll all be over soon!

Rabbitch said...

Scary. We have had our five days of summer and it's not bad around here now. Why am I writing this? Clearly, because I am a bitch.

I hope it gets better. The heat, that is. The bitchiness? There's no hope for that.

Ted said...

For what it's worth, Franklin, it's miserable here too.

There's only about 5 days out of the year when I really wish I had an air conditioner. Today is one.

I'm going to go to the grocery store and pretend to be reading the ingredients list of every container of ice cream in the place.

Sean said...

Um...can you do something about the weather before next week? To quote Bette, who can "Knit" in this weather? (phrase changed to protect the innocent)

MonicaPDX said...

Bog - I'm having a flashback from this. Recent lurker here, just finished catching up from the start on Friday. Muchly enjoyed all of it; thanks for all the snirtling, pix, cartoons, and knits! (And I think Dolores may be related. Distantly. Very distantly. But Mom grew up partly on a sheep ranch in Idaho, and there seems to-- Uh, nevermind.)

After reading today, had to send sympathies. Left-coast PDX had 99-104 temps for about 5 days a week or so ago. Gack. Funny, I was in Chicago for the first time in early June, for Tut. That was the last time I had AC...

Dig out some snow shots for wallpaper, and use all the ice for drinks that Big D filled your freezer with for a cool bath, maybe?

Cheryl said...

I was feeling sorry for myself because my office's crummy AC is keeping us in the low 80s, while every other office in the building is about 72. But the windows open? And paint fumes? That's just cruel.

We are supposed to have cooler weather on the way. When we are done with it in Iowa, we'll send it along. We need nice weather for Stitches.

Lee Ann said...

Don't tell Dolores, but this is the kind of day when my grandfather would walk around muttering, "goddamned hot enough to mate sheep, it is..."

My head is ready to explode. Which would be messy. I'm going to see if I fit into the freezer.

Elisabeth said...

Take your computer and set up somewhere there aren't painters. Like in the bathroom or something. Better yet, just go there without your computer and read. Better yet, take a sick day tomorrow.

It was nice to meet you at Arcadia! I'm trying to find the perfect place to hang up "Knit Two Together".

CateK said...

Oh man, and we are going camping for four days starting tomorrow...

PuppyMomma said...

Funny, I was having that same snowman fantasy!

Redford Phyl said...

This afternoon it finally dawned on me what suburban Detroit felt like this week — Las Vegas in July. Something is wrong with this picture.

Sam said...

Come to Nova Scotia. It is always cooler here!

Angela said...

And when you are done with Frosty send him my way, wontcha? Here in the uber-glamourous world of the arts, the temperature at my desk has not dipped below 88 since last week. Yep, I have a thermometer so when it is 55 in January I can torture myself with the knowledge of that, too. Like the guy who cleans up after the elephants at the circus says, "What? And leave show business?!!" I think we're getting a reprieve tomorrow--hang in there. Nice chatting at Arcadia last night, by the way. (I wonder if things are cooler in Revee-ah...)

Dee said...

It was lovely meeting you last night Franklin. Somehow we'll have to coax you out to the suburbs ;)

I so hate the heat, I am very happy that I don't live in So. Calif anymore, this valley girl likes it cold.

julia fc said...

Think ice fishing, sleigh bells, frostbite. Think Rhinebeck.

LornaJay said...

Come to Scotland! Our heatwave (28C and sunny) broke two days ago and it's cloudy and cool. T-shirt weather, but if you're sitting down you'd probably want a jumper.

vanessa said...

i love susie snowflake tap tap tapping on my windowpane to tell me she's in town :-)

Roz said...

I think the most accurate statement I heard today was when someone made the mistake of asking a co-worker the outside temperature here in Motown. Her response was "Today's temperature is Hell, °C"

rampant bicycle said...

I'm with you too. Toronto should NOT be this warm, even in summer. And outdoors, I find myself with the sensation that I am breathing water.

Incidentally, I think there is a good reason that the opening scenes of Romeo and Juliet, with their feuding family scions, are indicated as being excessively hot. Hot weather always seems to make tempers flare, too...

LaurieM said...

Next time just go home sick. Claim asthma if you have to.

It's just work after all.

lucia said...

Chicago == Climate Hell!

Too bad Dolores is incommunicado. I'm sure she could call her contacts in the mayor's office or the newsmedia. They would disapprove when they learn the University of Chicago is running sweat shops forcing staff to work in un-airconditioned rooms during this heat wave!

WGN sending cameras to film the horror would be terrible publicity!

christine said...

Oh, you poor baby..........I'm going to call OSHA for you...

FiberQat said...

Very well written, Franklin. I'd send you a cool marine air mass in your direction to cool you and your fellow Midwesterners off if I could.

If Mr Pressed Pleats had any sense he would have gone to work in shorts and a t-shirt and carried the suit and pressed shirt in a garment bag. Or left them at the office safe from cheeky subway riders telling him silently to "Get over it! It's HOT!"

David said...

I wore shorts to the office yesterday and today. Yet I do love the heat. I went jogging last night and probably left about five pounds of liquid me along the jogging path. Felt good. Be of stout heart, Franklin, the painting will be done at some point.

Eve said...

Your writing is fantastic. I envy and thank you.