Too hot for ya? Perhaps a change in perspective is in order

I've been sitting at this keyboard staring through the window for about five minutes now, when what I'm supposed to be doing is writing my column for the Tucson Weekly. The problem is my brain, stalled like an overheated car. I suspect this is due to the fact that even though it's only 10 a.m., I've spent the last hour outside doing chores, and it's about 800 degrees outside. It's supposed to be 814 degrees later.

It's the same thing that happened yesterday afternoon. The air conditioning in my Toyota went out, yet I still had a bunch of things to do, all of which involved driving. I had to take my kid to a sports thing, go the bookstore and finally the food store, but damn if I hadn't forgotten my list. As I crossed the supermarket threshold, feeling the semi-orgasmic rush of artificially refrigerated air on my face, I came up short. I couldn't remember one thing I was supposed to get.

I walked out with a six-pack of beer and a jar of mayonnaise.

Welcome to the reality of the Tucson summer. People say all kinds of dumb things in an effort to minimize its impact, like it's OK because it's a dry heat, or you get used to it. But after 20 years of living here, I believe it's high time this lie was revealed for the load of dog-assed crap it is. You don't get used to the Tucson summer any more than you would a brain tumor, malaria or Ebola. I'm not saying you can't coexist with it, but is coexisting the same as living? You can coexist with an open sewer, but that doesn't mean you want to move in next to one. No, the only way to deal with the Tucson summer is to take a cue from the Dalai Lama. He says that sometimes, psychological survival is simply a matter of coming at things from different angles, seeing them another way. If you're standing in a swamp during a monsoon rain, with leeches stuck all over your legs sucking the very life from you, and earwigs taking shelter in your auditory canals ... instead of fixating on your problems, think about how nice and green the swamp will look tomorrow. Think about all the lovely flowers sure to bloom as soon as the flood waters recede, provided, of course, that the corpses from all the dead livestock and industrial runoff haven't polluted the water too badly.

I've employed this approach before. In college, I lived in an apartment with paper-thin walls next door to a couple of raging alcoholics. Every night at about 2 a.m., they would start going at it: screaming, yelling, throwing furniture around and generally trying to kill each other. I consoled myself with the thought that things could be worse. At least I wasn't in Nicaragua getting shot at every day, nor was I in sub-Saharan Africa starving to death. Statistically, I figured, if I considered all the misery that ever had been in the world--including all the people boiled in oil, flayed alive, trampled by to death by horses or, worse yet, elephants--I had it pretty good. It all comes down to perspective.

The same sort of thinking can be employed with Tucson summers. The next time you're cursing the sun, which as we all know comes up at 3 a.m. and goes down around midnight, consider the fact that if the bastard was, like, a little closer or a little farther away, we wouldn't even be here. Any astronomer will tell you that the fact that life on Earth exists at all is the result of the exact location we inhabit in relation to that wonderful star. If we were closer, we'd all be melted; farther away, and we'd be frozen. All things considered, the sun is amazingly constant and generally benevolent; now that I think about it, any culture that doesn't make regular and massive human sacrifices to it is probably categorically insane. If that bastard ever decides to really go off on us, we're going to be in big trouble. One little temper tantrum, and we'll be curled up and singed like french fries left in the pan too long.

Or consider the tube worms living alongside ocean vents. These poor darlings routinely suffer temperatures of up to 380 degrees Celsius--I don't know what this is Fahrenheit, but I'm sure it's a lot. The point is, you don't hear them complaining.

Yes, when it comes to surviving the Tucson summer, a change of perspective is certainly in order. In my experience, this doesn't always work. Those boozers living on the other side of the wall? Eventually, I had to move out. It was either that or spike whatever cheap rotgut they were drinking with rat poison. I suspect the real problem was, I just didn't change my perspective enough.

I will strive to attain tube-worm consciousness in the future. Or, barring that, at least get the air conditioner in my car fixed.

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