Thursday, August 03, 2006

If you can't stand the heat ...


When I tell my New York friends that I like to spend the summer a few degrees south of the Tropic of Cancer, the next question is usually, "Isn't it too hot down there?" I don't think I'll have to answer that one again after this past July. We don't even have air conditioners in our house here. Today my six-year-old daughter announced that she had determined that it was 80 degrees outside and 80 degrees inside, how could that be? We pointed out that without glass windows or doors, outside and inside tend to blend. Had she brought the thermometer to the beach, she would have found the sea's temperature more or less the same.

New Yorkers (along with the rest of the U.S.) just suffered through the worst American heat wave in recorded history. Whoops, that was my inner Al Gore speaking. Actually, it was the worst American heat wave since 1980. Oh, well.

The heat wave of 1980 took over 1000 lives, though I'm still not clear on how the thermal-serial-killer death tolls get tallied. When your 300-pound uncle keels over beside the grill on a particularly sweltering July Sunday, did the heat wave do that? Does that mean his demise comes off the heart-disease death toll or the diabetes death toll?

Here's a bit of how our media is handling the killer-heat-wave-belt-notch question:
In Newark, New Jersey, a husband and wife aged 66 and 65 were found dead in their living room with the windows closed and no air conditioning, said Desiree Peterkin Bell, a spokeswoman for the Newark mayor's office.


Now do those count as heat wave fatalities? What about the old ornery-and-stupid list, like the one Harry Truman of Spirit Lake made when he refused to leave his home and subsequently died in the eruption of Mt. St. Helens?

Here's a bit of heat-wave media muddle from Indiana that will make you think twice:

One inmate in Indiana State Prison's disciplinary unit died from excess heat on Tuesday and another prisoner died there on Sunday from heart failure aggravated by the hot weather, prison spokesman Barry Nothstine said.

Now that's just terrible ...

One of them had been due to be released in November ...

... oh, even worse.

after serving his time for child molestation.

Um. My sympathy thingy just broke. Must be the heat. Maybe his heart failure was also aggravated by a shiv between the ribs?

Inmates in the unit were offered extra bottled water and as many cold showers as they wanted, Nothstine said.

Just hand me the Evian, Nothstine. I'll skip the shower.