We’re Having a Heat Wave

It is l00 degrees in Berkeley — and the day is still young. Yesterday, the highs were also in the triple digits.

We are melting, sweltering. . .and, in general, miserable. Not only is the air steamy, but it’s very unhealthy.

Northern California and Oregon have a bunch of nasty fires in process. Their smoke is drifting south. So our air is not just as hot as a steam room, but it is dirty and stagnant.

Now, you might feel little sympathy for us Bay Area dwellers. After all, your summers are likely much more difficult than ours. In Houston, of course, the residents are truly suffering with losing their homes, their possessions, and in some tragic cases, their lives.

So, yes, I know that people have it way worse than us. I appreciate that, I really do. But the difference between us and, say, the people in Florida or Colorado or pretty much everywhere, is that almost nothing around here is air conditioned.

No one has air conditioning at home. Few workplaces have AC– ditto for stores, restaurants, and the like. The party line is always, “We don’t need it here!”

Now that is a bold-faced lie, like so many other whoppers that people articulate in these parts. Yes, we do need air conditioning here! Every year, we have at least a few 90 and even l00 degree days, as well as plenty of 80-somethings. And anyway, as a shocked friend told me when she visited a few years ago and was horrified to find that not only was it 95 degrees out but there was no air conditioning, “Even if it’s only really hot a few days — it would make sense to still have air conditioning!”

I agree with my friend; of course, that is what is called common sense. But common sense and a sense of reality are rare around here. It is a truly bizarre thing to live in the most expensive area in the country and have truly hot and unhealthy days, and no avenue for relief at a local cafe.

What is interesting, though, is that many of the restaurants around here actually have air conditioning! But now is the time you really see how people can lie with impunity.

For instance, this morning, I met a friend for brunch. We were sweating and miserable in the super hot restaurant. Given that the place had no windows that open, I surmised that there must be air conditioning.

I asked the manager about it. She said yes they do and that it’s on. After an hour of boiling, I decided to scope around.

I wandered around the place to finally find the thermostat. Yes, indeed they had air conditioning! But it was not on and the temp was 88 degrees.

When I told the manager, she unapologetically went over and turned it on. But I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve had the same experience — they insist that the air is on (or that they don’t have air). I walk around and find it and point it out, and begrudgingly it gets turned on (sometimes, maybe).

The same thing for heat. Seriously — I am not kidding. It could be 40 degrees outside, rainy, windy. I walk into a restaurant and it is frigid. The diners have hats on, sometimes even gloves. When I speak to the waitstaff, they usually say that the heat is “broken.” The word, broken, is a euphemism for, “We don’t want to spend the money.”

While this may seem startling to you — restaurants that refuse to turn on air conditioning or even heat — it’s par for the course around here. It is third-world living, with the highest first-world prices around.

Bay Area residents are dragged down, down, down to the lowest common denominator, with no bags (except for a for-sale paper bag) to put a pretty new dress in; no air conditioning or heat, when not having so is uncomfortable, if not outright unhealthy.

Now the question that a lot of people are asking out here is why is it so so so hot? Most people believe it’s global warming because — well, it’s Berkeley, what would you expect? A few people might wonder about HARP, that government-run program to control the temperature in the world. For me, I just think it’s miserable.

Regardless of why, this horrendous heat makes me think about the Final Judgment. It makes me want to stand outside holding a big, bold sign. The sign would read, “If you think this day is hot, try an eternity in hell.” I would not do this, of course, because, for one, it’s too hot out there! And also, I’m not ready to die.

But really, who would do the things that people do — the blaspheming God, the mortal sins, and widespread rebellion — if they really thought that things could end very, very badly for them. And yet few people worry whether their actions in this life will have consequences when they die.

I would invite them instead to consider Pascal’s Wager. Pascal offered this challenge to atheists: Are you l00% sure that there isn’t a God? Most people would say that they couldn’t be for sure. In this case, Pascal wrote, it sure would be a better bet to assume that there is a God and to act accordingly.

I agree. I just wish that a hot-as-heck day like this one would remind people to think long and hard about heaven and hell. . and about where they want to end up. Because two things are certain: this heat wave will at some point end — but so will this life.

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