Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Summer Sucks

Summer has arrived here in New York City, and I can't help but hate it. I love New York and will never (voluntarily) live anywhere else, but let's face it: this city is an assault on the nose on the best of days. In the summer it's downright horrific. It's like torture porn for the olfactory sense.

The problem with summers here is that the crowded buildings, masses of people, and pollution-spewing cars combine with lack of central air conditioning most places (including my apartment), pedestrian lifestyle, and public transportation to create a perfect storm of stagnant heat, oppressive humidity, and sticky, stinky bodies pressed close together without a lot of relief.

When I tell people how much I hate the summer I get a lot of, "But you're from Miami!" To which I answer, "Yes. And I left there."

I'm just not a hot weather person.

As I type this I'm sitting in a cafe, under an air conditioner AND ceiling fan, sipping an iced tea and wearing shorts and a tank top. And it's still only May.

My mother-in-law, a native of Havana, Cuba, cannot stand the cold, and to her "cold" is anything below 75 degrees. As I said in a recent review for Moms Who Need Wine, "As soon as the mercury in the thermometer dips to 74 or below, she turns into a woodland animal and falls instantly into deep hibernation. True story."

I'm the opposite. As soon as the time and temperature box on New York 1 reads anything above 65, I start whining about how hot it is and turn into a Grumpy Gus. The heat makes me tired, and the dinky little window unit a/c's we have at home just don't quite cut it unless I crank them down to 68 degrees and blast all three of them together. I'm very sorry, Mother Earth, but I figure my carbon footprint is little enough that I can afford to be bad in the summer. Either that or I may kill all my friends and family in a heat-stroke-induced rage.

Things I hate about the hot weather:
  • Everyone smells. No matter how much we all shower and use deodorant, it's just a fact of life that in a city of 8 million people riding public transportation together, it's going to get a little stinky pee-ew. And by "a little" I mean "it's so bad that I often throw up a little in my mouth from even the shortest of subway rides."

Not too different from how New York City subway
straphangers stand. (Photo courtesy of smallguyseo.com)

  • It's hard to cool off. Most other cities have nice, new, modern apartment buildings with central air conditioning. And the shops and restaurants and cafes all have central a/c, too. When you don't have those things, life in the heat can get...rough. It reminds me a lot of the 6 weeks I spent on a study abroad trip to Italy. My friend the Jewtalian, an ex-pat New Jerseyer who married a guy from Italy and moved there to be with him and raise her family, tells of how the Italians fear moving air of any kind. The summer I was there we all nearly passed out on a daily basis from the lack of modern comforts like air conditioning or ceiling fans. And that's kind of what New York is like in the summer. Maybe not as bad - lord knows New Yorkers love them some ceiling fans. (I had one installed last summer to try to maximize the efforts of our window unit a/c.) But still, when you read the bit below you'll wonder how 8 million people make it from May to September every year without collective, en mass dehydration and heat stroke.
  • New York is an outside kind of city. Few New Yorkers own cars. And why should we when we have the best public transportation system in the world? And by "best" I of course mean the worst. The buses come only in clusters, and if you miss a cluster you'll likely stand at a bus stop - without shade or a place to sit - for up to half an hour, waiting, melting, burning from the outside in. At some point the heat will scorch its way through your skin like a laser and fry holes in your internal organs. People have DIED from 3rd degree sunburns on their livers in this city! True story.
Going underground isn't much help. The subway stations are...how can I put this without offending your delicate sensibilities? The subway stations are like the lowest pits of Hell, un-ventilated, reeking of urine both stale and fresh, with traces of vomit and feces, rats scurrying about, sludge flowing between the subway tracks, and a press of humanity crushing you with their sweaty selves. At least the subway trains themselves are air conditioned. Most of them.

And if you're not taking the bus or subway, you're often walking. For blocks and blocks and blocks. In 90+ degree heat, with no hope of cooling down once you reach your destination unless you are prone to filling your bra with ice. I won't say I've never done that, either.

My friend Tia once came to visit us over Labor Day Weekend, and after living my life with me for 5 days she lost so much weight her clothes no longer fit her. We did THAT much walking.

Now imagine either pushing a heavy stroller full of squirmy toddler in that heat, or else constantly coaxing a walking little boy who has to stop and look at every. damn. object. from one block to another. Yeah.

  • The beaches here are...interesting. At least in Miami when you go to a beach you can be reasonably assured that the water will be blue or green or some combination of the two, the sand will be white, and the people will be at least mildly attractive, what with most of them being sexy European tourists and all. New York is surrounded by water, it's true, but, um, uh...it's not Miami. Let's just leave it at that.

Coney Island beach. Sigh.
(Photo courtesy of wanderingbrooklyn.com)

  • Speaking of water and a lack of relief from the heat... It's hard to cool off aquatically here in New York. In Miami everyone has a pool as a matter of course. They just do. In-ground, above-ground, whatever. When you live in Miami you are assigned a Publix shopping card, a hurricane tracking map, a gun to shoot looters with after you are hit by the hurricanes you just tracked, and a swimming pool.
In New York, not so much. It's hard to have a pool when you live in an apartment building that abuts several other apartment buildings. So we have "community pools," but there is not enough chlorine in the universe to make me allow the bodies of myself or anyone I love to become immersed in those. I mean, think about the words "community" and "pool." Am I just paranoid here? Come on.

Not for me or mine.
(Photo courtesy of locals.oyster.com)

The playgrounds have sprinklers, but those are for the kids. So what are we grownups left to do to find watery refreshment from the terrible scorchiness of New York summers? I won't name names, but I happen to know for a fact that I am not the only person around here who takes cold showers in the evenings...

  • It's hotter than Satan's Asscrack*. I love the change of seasons. Nothing makes you appreciate the crisp, cool Autumn air like 500-degree summers. But, as with everything else in New York, our change of seasons are neither mild nor subtle. Our winters are harsh, with at least several blizzards per moth for three months in a row, and temperatures well below freezing from December through March. In spring all we get is rain. March showers bring April showers bring May showers. And when the rain ends we get summer, which is a brutal, evil mix of heat and humidity. Last summer we had five heatwaves in a row, a "heatwave" being defined as above 90-degree temperatures. We regularly go days at a time above 100 degrees, usually right around the Fourth of July. Now, think about that, and think about it in the context of everything else I just said about living in New York in the summer.

So yeah. Summer can suck it.

*TM my friend the Ex-Pat from Detroit.


jodi said...

Yay for the shout-out! And totally accurate description of the subway stations. Though, a simple EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW would've worked too!

Marinka said...

I love the summer because I'm not constantly insisting that the kids put on more layers, but the heat kills me too.

The whole get dressed, go out, sweat to death, come indoors and get airconditioned to death while the sweat sticks to you. Yuck.

I miss spring.

Meredith L. said...

I like fall. Crisp, but not too cold. Pleasant. Civilized.