Dog days of summer here in the Old Pueblo have hit with a vengeance. As if part of some masochistic ritual, we obsessively listen to the daily weather report in the hope of hearing a news flash about an upcoming cold snap.

In the morning, getting ready to face our daily responsibilities, we arm ourselves to do battle with the elements: sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, long-sleeved shirt and a bottle of water. These are our weapons in a war against the evil hot weather terminator, which plays havoc with the ideal climate we enjoy here in Tucson seven or eight months a year

We grumble, curse and ask ourselves what we're doing in a place where only lizards and cactus seem to thrive, vow that we're definitely going to move and then don't, walk around exhausted from doing nothing. We understand all too well the sentiment on those T-shirts featuring a skeleton who proclaims, "But it's a dry heat."

There are only two main ways we Tucsonans have figured out how to get relief from the June-September inferno. One is to crank up the A/C, and the electric bill right along with it; the other is to join the mass exodus to San Diego or other such cool clime, which results in another mass exodus of beaucoup bucks from the wallet. Instead of doing rain dances, we say a desperate prayer to the universe that neither home, car nor work A/C unit will malfunction.

There has to be a better way.

I have a simple solution to our four-month heat wave that won't cost you a dime and could potentially save you money. I propose a 180-degree turnaround of our lifestyle.

Instead of getting up around 7 a.m. and starting our day, we should actually start our "day" around 7 p.m., maybe later, and have breakfast under the stars.

Instead of keeping to the old winter schedule of opening at 10 a.m., retailers should open around 8 p.m. and remain open all night. We could then attend to business in much cooler comfort, during which time the car A/C (which seems to use up about half my gas bill every summer) could actually be turned off.

Tennis under the lights at 3 a.m. could be delightful; so would going out for an après-tennis dinner about 5 a.m., giving a whole new meaning to the term "fashionably late."

No longer would we feel the disappointment of having to miss interesting events because it's too darned hot to venture out. How about getting together with friends to see a movie at 2 a.m. and returning to a car that's not 140 degrees? Imagine shopping for the day's groceries around 4 a.m. when produce has just come in and fruits and veggies are at their freshest? And the joys of working with colleagues who are not heat-beat and cranky would be practically indescribable.

Our physical needs for exercise and a brief period of sunshine could be met around 5:30 or 6 a.m. with a brisk walk or swim.

A few hours later, we'd drift into peaceful sleep, blissfully unaware of the 105 degrees in the shade, and waking up energized and ready to greet another summer evening.

But creatures of habit that we humans are, will this ever happen? Are any folks willing to step up and sign my petition to turn our timetable on its head four months a year?

Didn't think so. I guess I have no choice but to tough it out and at least be grateful for a couple of things, like stores that open early and for living in the only state in the union without daylight saving time, where darkness mercifully sets in around 8 p.m.

But as far as lunch al fresco goes, I'm putting that one off until noon … in October.

E-mail Barbara Russek at Babette2@comcast. net