Dumbfounded I stare at the dashboard display. Not quite 11 a.m. and it’s already 103 degrees outside. I crank up the air conditioning in my van for the ride across town, thankful for the greatest invention of the Twentieth Century.
In Miami we expect this kind of steamy heat well into October, when the weather gods concede relief with a temperature drop of a few degrees. But during the summer it’s a scorcher everywhere, regardless of what compass point you call home. A blistering heat wave, along with its cousin Suffocating Humidity, has gripped the entire country. In midtown Manhattan last week highs reached 96 degrees, but in some areas of The Baked Apple the heat index approached 100. On the other side of the country, the Seattle-Tacoma area broke the record for the most 90-degree days in a year before the end of July. And we still have all those days in August!
Yes, it’s summer, and the sweating is easy. So why, oh why, must I lug around a sweater or a wrap if I plan to spend a few hours in climate-controlled surroundings? It may be hellish outdoors, but you’d hardly know that in my office. Heck, in most offices. Those of us foolish enough to forget a cardigan at home must burrow into our seats for warmth, worried that we might’ve turned the wrong page on the desk calendar.
It’s not just offices where a perpetual December reigns. Some malls and movie theaters bring the brrr on even as the mercury outside climbs ever upward. At one store I had a dreadfully disorienting moment when I wasn’t sure if I needed to shop for clunky boots or strappy sandals. And just a few weeks ago, at a tourist attraction in Atlanta, my fingernails turned purple from the frigid air blowing down from gargantuan vents in the ceiling. I was wearing a sleeveless shirt because the day’s high topped 93.
Hospitals? Don’t get me started on the frosty clime of those institutions. I always wonder if I’m being iced down as a lab specimen in a dystopian novel. I’m surprised more people don’t suffer from frostbite in emergency rooms.
During the most stiflingly part of summer, I feel as if I’m living in two distinct climate zones, tropical and polar, with a vengeful dictator at the controls of both sectors. One zone is separated from the other by nothing more than doors and windows and some people manage to cross boundaries with nary a worry. Not me. Going from cold to hot, my glasses fog up, rendering me blind for several minutes. From hot to cold, I shiver and sneeze as sweat dries into a thin layer of ice on my skin.
I’m hardly alone in rebelling against this Arctic Blast of the Great Indoors. The other day a colleague emailed the newsroom a Washington Post story about frozen office workers. Two other friends sent me the same story separately. It was hardly the first piece about the subject. Several years ago, while suffering through summer’s typical temperature whiplash, I read a New York Times article about why hermitically sealed office buildings can get so darn cold in summer and so steamy hot in winter.
The reasons are many, from lack of thermostats to business-suited men and menopausal woman. But so what. I want solutions not explanations. Right now office workers across America are enduring our own Ice Age and the only relief is to step outside to defrost like a ribeye steak on the kitchen counter.
Follow Ana on Twitter @AnaVeciana.