I have medical heat sensitivity. Don't look for a disorder by that name in the Merck Manual, as I recently coined the term myself. In years gone by, when I explained to folks my need to be indoors from about 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. four months a year due to heat sensitivity, they would shrug their shoulders and stifle a yawn.
I needed a phrase that would get their attention. It wasn't pity I wanted - just a little acknowledgement and understanding. Since my doctor agreed that I was very heat sensitive, I came up with the term, which I feel is an accurate description.
A few people have asked why I live in Tucson, forgetting that we have eight months a year of practically perfect weather. I've been here well over 30 years. There's a comfort in knowing where the butcher and baker are. All things considered, outside of the summer heat, Tucson is a very livable city, filled with culture. It is my home.
Staying indoors during peak heat periods is the obvious solution, but that too has its downside. Hearing on the radio that it's a record-breaking 107 degrees out there, reading the headlines about the scorching summer we can expect, seeing video after video on TV of wildfires blazing out of control can quickly counteract a 73-degree temperature indoors, where heat seems to creep in from sources unknown.
And let's face it. Air conditioning in no way substitutes for fresh air, which I crave all the more when I can't have it. Indoors, I often feel like a kid in a candy store that has gone out of business. I know what I had months ago, and I want it again.
I finally figured out a way to breathe in some cool fresh air. I'm not talking about San Diego or the Bay Area. No traveling is involved at all. Starting my day at just past 4:30 a.m. on a recent Saturday gave me more than four hours of weather that put life back into my brain, which seems to go on hiatus come those evil triple digits.
I was on the road, destination a big-box store, by a quarter to five. Opening all four windows, I was euphoric, driving up and down streets that were practically deserted. Upon arriving at the store fifteen minutes later, I was greeted by a security guard who informed me that it opens at 6 a.m.
That little glitch could have put a crimp in my morning. However, I was not about to waste a moment of that refreshing, silky air. I went for a little spin around the neighborhood, reveling in breezes that made me almost giddy with delight. This, I thought, is the true meaning of a joy ride.
The rest of those precious four hours were filled with other outdoor activities, including a brisk walk and 20-minute swim. When the thermometer hit 80 degrees at 6 in the morning, it was time to get going if I wanted to accomplish a few other things al fresco - gardening, reading the paper on my front patio, even a trip back to the big-box store.
The pièce de resistance: breakfast on the spacious, mist-covered terrace of a local cafe. As the weather started to cross that delicate line from almost cool to getting toasty, it was time to head indoors. I'd had my fix.
To paraphrase the poet James Russell Lowell, what is so rare in Tucson as a cool morning in June? If one gets an early enough start, it doesn't have to be rare at all!
E-mail Barbara Russek at Babette2@comcast.net