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June 24, 2008

We're Having a Heat Wave

SunI awoke last week to the sound of the newscaster on my clock radio -- as usual.

What wasn't usual was the weather report: "Yesterday, the mercury hit 113 degrees in Woodland Hills. Today will be even hotter."

That is so NOT what I wanted to hear first thing in the morning. Especially since I was already feeling uncomfortably warm. A thermostat check revealed that the temperature in the house was already a balmy 79. At 7:00 a.m.

WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO OUR JUNE GLOOM?

You know, the coastal clouds that usually keep the area from heating up too much this time of year.

I realize that my friends who live on the Westside hate it when the cloud cover doesn't burn off until mid-afternoon, but I don't have a lot of sympathy for them. They live near the beach. Sure, they have to pay more for that privilege, but THEY LIVE NEAR THE BEACH.

I would rather it be cloudy and breezy and a little bit cold rather than the smoggy blast of furnace heat we experienced last week.

After decades of living in the San Fernando Valley, you would think I'd be used to the hot summer temperatures, especially having grown up at a time when air conditioning was not as ubiquitous as it is now.

I can remember sweltering on hot August days in an aunt's upstairs apartment, windows ajar, with nothing but a swiveling table fan to provide a little relief. Those fans were everywhere; homes and commercial spaces alike. They were OK if you could position yourself right in front and take in the breeze, but that would mean blocking everyone else, and my mom and dad wouldn't let me do that for more than a minute or two.

I felt fortunate that our Mission Hills home had a small window cooler in the dining room. When my sister and I had trouble sleeping on hot summer nights, we'd lay our pillows and sleeping bags on the dining room floor, just below the vent.

This is a trick I carried with me during the summer heat wave of 1985, when the city was being terrorized by a murderer dubbed "The Night Stalker" (because he attacked his victims after breaking into their homes through an open window). I lived alone in a ground floor apartment at the time (again, with just a window unit in the living/dining area) and slept on the couch until the guy was caught. To this day, I don't feel safe sleeping with an open window, which is often a source of contention between my husband and me.

I didn't even own a car that had air conditioning until I was nearly 30. Air did not come standard in most vehicles until recently. I used to be fond of washing my hair before getting in the car in the summer and "blow drying" it by going as fast as I could with all the windows down.

Today, I live in a home with central air conditioning and drive a car that has something like 15 different vents to pipe cold air wherever passengers may need it.

Our summer electric bills are ridiculously high, thanks to my husband's penchant for turning the thermostat way lower than the suggested 78 degrees. However, I'm thinking there's something wrong with our thermostat, because our house simply isn't comfortable when it's set that high, and on triple digit days, it's kind of moot, because we can't get the temps below 80 until the mercury dips back below 95.

I am nervously aware of the high cost of all that energy - both to my pocketbook and the environment. This is why I'm remembering the ways I used to cope with Valley summers. I have a feeling I'm going to need every old trick in the book.

Fortunately, our normal June temperatures returned yesterday ...just in time for a little road trip I scheduled a while ago... in Palm Springs, where the high today is predicted to reach 106.

Good thing I'm taking the car with all those vents.

And I recently discovered that one of my closest friends has bought a new house.

It's at the beach.

I have a feeling I'll be dropping in on her a lot this year.

Original post for Los Angeles Moms Blog. Donna Schwartz Mills also blogs about trying to stay cool at SoCal Mom.

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