Stygian Heat (Hope and Pray the Power Stays On) and Odds and Ends

Might as well eliminate the middleman. Or at least find a reason for Americans to have bidets.  This porcelain fixture looks similar, but actually isn’t a toilet.

Power outages in the summer are both more frequent and more devastating than winter outages, at least in my world.  In winter, one can move the contents of the fridge and freezer out in the garage.  Problem solved.  In summer, if the power’s out for more than an hour or two you’re screwed- all the food you had in the fridge and freezer is no longer safe to eat, and you have a nasty ass mess to clean up.  In winter, one can always light a fire in the fireplace (yes, I actually know how to do this correctly, without using gasoline or other accelerants) and gain both heat and light.  In winter one can always put on more clothes, and even grab a nice warm dog.  In summer, you’re screwed again.  No A/C, no fans, and who in the hell wants to light a fire to get some light when it’s already 120° in the house?  One can only remove so many clothing items, and it is possible to be stark raving naked and still in the throes of heat stroke.

It can and occasionally does get extremely hot here in beautiful Central Ohio.  The humidity is the worst part of it.  Today it’s difficult to even draw a breath outside.  I’ve got the dogs on a strict outside time table of five minutes when it’s hotter than 85°.   The last thing I need is for one of the girls to get heat stroke, because dogs can die of it even more quickly than humans.  Dogs have no sweat glands, and panting isn’t a terribly efficient cooling method.  Add to the mix that my girls are large (therefore at higher risk for heat stroke due to body mass) and two of them have thick coats.  They have access to cool water at all times and are in the A/C almost constantly when the temperature is over 85°.  It’s not easy for them either, because they would rather be outside in the daytime.  Their excursions into the great outdoors right now are limited to potty breaks and an hour or so in the yard in the relative cool of the morning.  They don’t like it.

I hope and pray our power stays on.  Usually when we have had power outages they have been corrected rather quickly.  Being on the same grid as the airport has its advantages in some ways.  We did have about a day and a half of no power back in 2004 when there was a really bad ice storm on Christmas Eve and the transformer outside the house burned up, but at least we were able to use the fireplace and keep the perishables out in the garage, so it wasn’t terribly tragic.  It is tragic right now for people whose power has been out for the past week.  I don’t want to imagine how miserable they are.  The Red Cross set up a cooling shelter at my church so some people can at least come to get cooled down in the heat of the day.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be so paranoid, but I’ve gotten to go to the ER twice in my life for heat stroke.  I don’t wish for a third.  The first was when I was 7 years old and attempting to play softball in 100° weather while also sporting flaming blistering sunburn (second degree burns) on my face, neck and arms.  I don’t remember much about the ER visit other than after getting the obligatory IV bag of fluids in the hospital.  When I got home the “cure” for the wicked burns was that I was forced to take Aveeno baths three times a day, and then get slathered with zinc oxide in an attempt to dry up the oozing blisters from the sunburn for about two weeks.  This rather unpleasant treatment did prevent scarring.   Sunscreen was not commonly known or used back in the summer of 1976.

There are people in this world who Do Not Tan.  I am one of them.  I do freckle, blister and splotch though.

The second time I had heat stroke it was a lot worse, but I’d been out in the heat longer too.  The nurse found it necessary to actually cut into the veins in my wrist in order to start an IV line as I was badly dehydrated.  I’d come back from working a temporary job- outside all day in the hot sun holding up signs of all things- (the things a college kid will do for $8.50/hr, but in 1987 that was a small fortune) and then ended up stranded on a freeway bridge in my old ’77 Rabbit that had no A/C to begin with, then it stalled out with vaporlock.  Vaporlock was extremely common in VW’s with the old CIS injection systems, especially on the very early ones (’77 was the first year for that system) that had most inadequate fuel pressure accumulators.  I knew what it was, but the car wasn’t going to move under its own power until the fuel lines cooled down enough to allow the fuel to return to a liquid state.   It was 98° and 100% humidity, so all you do is sweat and drip and the water just pours out of your body to no avail. There is no evaporation and no cooling going on, just your blood boiling and the fluids escaping one’s body, so you stew and stink in a hot sticky paste of your own sweat.  By the time the cops got to me and convinced me to get out of the car, I had the most intense, blinding headache one can dare to imagine, and I was too weak to stand.  One thing interesting about heat stroke.  Right before you black out you get this sense that you’re going to die- and you’re cool with it- because then the headache will go away.

No one thinks about his/her fuel pump.  Until it stops working.

By the time Dad’s buddy had retrieved my car, the vaporlock in the fuel line had resolved itself.  The car fired up and ran perfectly after its 40 mile tow, which infuriated Dad even more- after driving 40 miles to retrieve me from the hospital (of course I was out of town) and then having to pay his buddy $75 to tow the car. Dad was pissed to the point that the top of his head was a hot tomato red.  (Dad has been pretty much bald except for a slight fringe on the sides and back of his head since he was about 30.)  I don’t know if he was more pissed at me for going out of town on such a hot day even though I had gone to do some temporary work to try to earn some extra money (I got a check for a whole $80- see how that backfired) or because he knew about the problem with the fuel accumulators on those cars and he hadn’t bothered to replace mine.  Why VW never got the idea to put the fuel pumps in the fuel tank like every other vehicle manufacturer is beyond me- it keeps the fuel cooler than an inline pump and avoids the hot fuel condition that leads to vaporlock in the first place- but VW has always been a bit weird.

Sometimes I wonder why I live in Ohio, but then I remember I can’t afford to leave.  Even so, the grass is always blacker somewhere else.  I can take some small comfort in my geographical location today. At least I don’t live in Detroit.