When the heat blazes through


In this city, the only thing that whispers summers arrival louder than the jailbreaking exclamations from students with their eyes on the beach is the muck and stick of the summer weather itself.

Having no regard for the official first day of the season, the recent heat wave put many residents in slow motion as temperatures topped 95 degrees for four days straight, tying one record, blacking out homes, offices and schools and making air conditioners pant in a city that was once swampland.

Some handled it better than others. 

Its perfect man, Vince Trimarchi said  as he walked his bike away from Starbucks in Old Town holding a steaming cup of coffee that couldnt have been much hotter than the 102-degree heat index. I live for this. This is a beautiful day to be in Old Town.

For others, it was an excuse to grab an ice cream cone during an otherwise mundane lunch hour. Jen Kundrud strolled up King St. with a cookies n cream cone that she said would not have happened without the heat. Its too hot, she said. Its hard to breathe.

For those who work outside, the muggy temperatures were a little rougher. Rhonda Elsmore, a U.S. Postal worker, trudged down Prince Street wielding a heavy sack of correspondence when she saw two runners, shirts plastered to their backs and said quizzically I would have at least waited till sundown!

The heat was nothing Elsmore couldnt handle; shes been on the job for 23 years. Ive just been drinking a lot of water, she said as she stuffed some of her bags contents through a mail slot, lightening her workload. My water that was frozen this morning has melted already. I have no air conditioning in the truck just the vans do. Someone, get this veteran a van.

School crossing guard Norman Howard directed rush hour traffic on Washington Street during the heat wave, which he said is a vacation for me compared to working Gibbon Street where the exhaust from cars on their way to and from the beltway makes it even more unbearable.

It doesnt really bother me, Howard said with damp towels on his head and neck to keep him relatively cool. One gots the feeling theyd turned into heating pads Id rather be doing this than be in the snow. The towels? I got to do something.

Howard said that he had a cooler in his truck full of cold water, so it was just another day at work. But sitting barefoot on King Street with a cardboard sign stating in magic marker, Homeless. Jobless. Please help, was Fox. As the sign indicates, Fox is homeless, the only shade coming from the brim of his hat hanging over his forehead.

Sometimes I soak my T-shirt, Fox said. Upon assuming he got his cool water from the nearby fountain, he sneered in an are-you-crazy? fashion and explained that the water was filthy. No way, he said. I go down the street and soak it in the bathroom. Not much else to do other than that. 

The heat stifled one of Foxs income sources as well, with the heat keeping those who otherwise might toss some spare change his way indoors and out of the street where he spends most of his time hot or cold. Its pretty dead right now, he said. Everyone is under cover somewhere.

Even for those indoors, air conditioners across the city had trouble keeping up with the blazing weather. Local consultant Chris C-Rob Robinson had to alter his wardrobe. Im not usually an undershirt kind of guy, he said. But with this heat I had to go to the store and buy a three-pack of V-necks.

Though the heat wave ended with some welcomed thunder and lightening, Robinson had another novel idea from which many can learn for the next one: The best way to beat the heat? Sick days.