The Tri-State Metropolitan area is in the grips of a heat-wave of historical proportions. Since Wednesday New York has been pelted by solar rays that have turned the Big Apple to the Baked Apple to the Cajun Blackened Apple (ain't it ungla-more-ays). Yesterday Newark airport reported temperatures of 106 degrees Fahrenheit and today many locales in NYC are supposed to experience highs over 100. Couple that with some stifling humidity and no relief from any pop-up thunderstorms and you've got a truly uncomfortable and even dangerous situation.
I'll leave it to esteemed climatologists such as Al Gore or Michael Moore to determine whether this is reflective of normal cyclical ups and downs or of an alarming pattern of Global Climate Change brought about by human misbehavior. (Reportedly it has not been this hot on July 22nd since 1951). But I do feel qualified to weigh in on an apparent change in human nature. Whether or not the weather is significantly and/or permanently more brutal now than it was when we were kids we certainly complain, moan and kvetch about it more now than we did then.
I could hardly believe my ears listening to the radio on my morning commute. Nary a word about the debt-ceiling crisis or any details on the Levy Aaron prosecution but incessant, obsessive coverage about the hot weather. Interviews with Con Edison and LIPA executives to see if the power grid is equal to the imminent AC Armageddon, man-in-the-street interviews to make the astounding discovery that people are uncomfortable and would rather be someplace cooler (why not just replay last heat waves man-in-the-street interviews ?) and incessant repetitions about the existence of "Cooling Centers" and the need to stay hydrated dominated the airwaves. One would have thought that the weather was what was happening in the city rather than the mere stage and backdrop for what was happening in the city. I felt offended and diminished as a New Yorker and thought I was back in some Kansas hamlet where Church Bake-Sales and cats caught up in trees are deemed newsworthy.
When I was young weather reports took about 30 seconds. One heard the highs the lows and whether or not it would rain. Now we obsess over wind-chill factors and it's summertime alter-ego, real-feel temperatures, barometric pressure, Canadian Air Masses, storm "systems", "pop-up" storms and Nor'easters et al. Whatever the weather happens to be on any given day, it is consistently kevtch-worthy.
The spike in whining, moaning, obsessing and kvetching is probably due to the perfect-storm like confluence of an aging population, the easy availability of prescription and over-the-counter pain-killers, the increasing ubiquitousness of central air-conditioning, and a hedonistic culture in which Comfort is King and Pleasure is Prince. Any notions of stoicism or ennobling suffering have long since been jettisoned. This seems to be a permanent Sociological change and not something cyclical so I hope that you'll forgive me the nostalgia and sentimentality that I'm about to indulge in.
Give me Tom Brokaws "Greatest Generation". To beat the heat in 1951 they would have stripped down to their refugee T-Shirts, slept in parks or on fire escapes and sat in front of a block of ice backed by an electric fan with metal blades. Most fetching of all, they would've gone about their business and kept their mouths shut about how hot it is.