Tuesday, June 10, 2008

a made-up guide to summer survival

Well, it isn’t even mid-June and it is already uncomfortable in the sun at 7am. The temperatures are rising and the humidex is rising even more. In fact, we have already had a couple of days where a “humidex advisory” has been issued. This means that it is actually dangerous to go an entire day without air conditioning. Until I moved here, I had no idea this was even a concept you had to worry about.

The weather network has provided a definition of humidex here and wikipedia also has an entry. They both make it sound like a made up non-scientific phenomenon, and in fact here is an article criticizing both humidex and wind chill, regardless, that humidity makes it damn hot. And hey, if Environment Canada has to be on the cutting edge of something, it might as well be making up weather phenomena.

So, in the spirit of making things up, here are my rules for humidex survival.

Rule 1: Hydrate
Yes, it makes you have to pee more often, but that sticky stuff all over you that makes you wonder if you were attacked by the “jam hands” of a pack of roaming toddlers- that’s sweat. Sweat mixed with anything that touches your skin…like lotion or dust or bugs. Normally, sweat forms as a way of cooling you off. The sweat comes out, it evaporates and you get some sweet sweet relief. But in the humidity, the air is already so full of moisture that there is no evaporation. Just stickiness. And, in order to create more stickiness, we must drink more water. Try to offset some of the salt loss that comes with the profuse sweating with a bit of Gatorade, or maybe a bag of potato chips.

Rule 2: Layers
Counter-intuitive: yes, but also necessary. Although fabric technology has evolved to the point where there are items of clothing that wick away moisture and don’t absorb stink, most of these items are appropriate only for the gym (although some of the Nike Dri-Fit golf stuff appeals to my inner prep). Thus, if you want to wear cotton in anything other than black, a sweat-absorbing layer is a must. I used to wonder why men wore undershirts. Now I know. Without them, you will be a nasty swacky* mess. Ok, you’ll still be a mess, but with that sweat-absorbing layer, it won’t be as obvious. Even with this rule, avoid grey shirts at all costs. You just never know what will happen with grey.

Rule 3: Think flowy
Mrs Roper had the right idea with her MuuMuus. If you aren’t willing to dress in layers, flowy fabrics that don’t touch your body are ideal. If you aren’t willing to go through summer looking like one of the Golden Girls, there are some more modern options such as this or this (though that last one borders on Roper), but again, the key is to think about flow.

Rule 4: Move less
This rule competes with rule 1 in that in order to hydrate (and as a result, pee more), you do need to move, and moving makes that stickiness turn into drippiness, but the thought here is to move as little as possible. Sure, this also competes with the fact that humidex season coincides with bathing suit season, but you won’t want to be out in the sun anyway (see rule 8). And, as rule 5 will demonstrate, you might be eating less anyway. But yes, anything to prevent the beads of sweat from forming and dripping is very important- this involves moving less and moving slowly. Sticky actually ends up being the preferable state because as we all know, sticky is better than drippy.

Rule 5: Do NOT turn the oven on.
If you have central air, this may not apply to you, but even then, you have to be able to afford to cool your kitchen to meat locker like temperatures in order for the oven to be an option. Turn that oven on and the kitchen turns from uncomfortable to sauna. You walk in there and immediately start dripping. This is especially true in an apartment such as mine where not only does the oven heat up, but so does the top burner. Oooh, even MORE heat, yay! I don’t care if your only child wants nothing more than a homemade cake for her birthday- pay someone to make it for you. Heck, go buy a McCains Deep ‘n Delicious from the freezer aisle just so you can stick your head in there for a second and tell your kid you’ll make her a cake once sweater season rolls around. No baking, no roasting, basically, limited hot food. This leaves your dinner options to salad, items that require only one burner of the stove (because more than one and you’re running the risk of oven-like temperatures), and anything you can make in the toaster oven, so don’t worry too much about all that sitting around you’re doing in order to comply with rule 4, because you’ll soon get sick of your food options and just stop eating all together.

Rule 6: Don’t you hate pants?
Once you get home and can do nothing but sit on the couch in front of the fan, hydrate, and move as little as possible, the logical solution is to strip down to as little as possible. Sure, this is when the tech-fabrics can come out if necessary, but why create more laundry (which requires moving) when you can just sit around in your underwear with an ice pack (or cold beer) on your belly?

Rule 7: Cold showers- not just for 13 year old boys.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. The only problem with the cold shower however, is that eventually it has to end and your newly cooled core temperature will be hovering back at feverish levels in no time.

Rule 8: Stay out of the sun
I know. It has been a long winter and all you want to do is be outside in the sun. But it will only take a few minutes to realize that being out in the sun is even worse than being in your kitchen with the oven on. You stand in the sun and even your dog tries to sneak in close to try to take advantage of the shade you are producing. Why? Why is that? Well that 29° that “feels like” 40° you saw on the weather network? That is measured in the shade. The temperature in the sun actually can’t be measured, thermometers don’t go that high. The drippiness that happens in the shade turns into a veritable downpour in the sun. You soak through that base layer and start messing up your ‘real’ shirt in a matter of minutes. The only thing that can save you is to stand soaking wet (post cold shower) in front of an air conditioner. And even then it takes a good 10 minutes for your face to return to a lightish red instead of the angry purple brought on by that kind of heat. So, save the sun basking to the few short weeks in the spring between the time the snow melts and the humidity starts and then again in the fall in the weeks after the humidex drops off and before the snow starts to fall.

In summary, humidity sucks but at least it is fun to follow a bunch of made up rules in order to stay as comfortable as possible. Hey, at least there are a lot of good movies coming out this summer and one sure way to escape the heat is to sit in an over-air conditioned movie theatre eating that delicious movie popcorn.

*In case you need a translation, swack is the sweat you get on your back that makes your shirt stick to it, if you happen to be sitting while swack develops, it will likely be accompanied by swass, which is clearly ass sweat. Neither are desirable.


Dee said...

I vote for the salty, salty potato chips rather than the gatorade...any excuse to eat chips!

Nice rules...we might need them out west too if this rain keeps up all summer...I heard the other day that it's going to be a wet one!

Kirst said...

I love all your rules. I don't like what Devin has heard about the weather. We need a happy medium between our 2 climates. Hope you found some cool relief today.

Kirst said...

Okay so I thought it said Devin not Dee. It's been a very long day. Oops!

liz said...

speaking of Devin... he wastes no opportunity to remind me about how horrible the Ottawa weather will be next year. As though I didn't already know.

Heather said...

I like that you're back to your old blogging style of actually blogging and writing up things that are interesting.

That sounded so intelligent. I'm awesome.