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Humor April 2018

Sam's Side

Surviving Summer

By Sam Beeson

When hiking in the desert in the summer, make sure you bring plenty of water. This water is not intended to save you. You are going to die and there’s nothing that can be done about that. The water is intended as a nice gesture to those poor souls who must find your beef jerky-like remains in the desert. It is the least you could do for them.

As of this writing, I am about to enter yet another summer in the desert city of Phoenix, Arizona. This would make nearly six decades of doing so. This is an accomplishment. Surviving summer is no small feat.

The desert southwest is a popular place for seniors to live after they retire. They come here in order to avoid the winter in whatever frozen Arctic wasteland from which they came. Some – those that we natives refer to lovingly as “snowbirds” - like to have the best of both worlds; coming here in the winter and going there in the summer.

Must be nice.

But for the rest of us, we have to deal with the eight-month-long season of summer. (There are only two seasons in this part of the country: Summer and Summer Adjacent). Being a native, I am something of an expert in hot weather survival. As such I feel compelled to advise the reader, should he or she ever decide to visit Arizona during the summer, that there are some very basic, but very sensible rules you should follow. Now I want to stress, these rules MUST be followed or else you will (“will,” not “could”) die or suffer significant injury. But probably die.

1. When hiking in the desert in the summer, make sure you bring plenty of water. This water is not intended to save you. You are going to die and there’s nothing that can be done about that. The water is intended as a nice gesture to those poor souls who must find your beef jerky-like remains in the desert. It is the least you could do for them.

2. If you still insist on hiking in the desert during the summer, make sure your dental records are complete. This is absolutely necessary. We have a lot of open spaces here, and your dried out corpse may not be found for years, long after those things that have evolved to live in the desert have used your body for every last nutrient it can squeeze from it. But teeth last a long time. So if you hope to someday be laid to rest next to people who died far more sensible deaths, make sure your next of kin know who your dentist is.

3. Learn how to drive a car without touching the steering wheel. Anything in your car will scar, maim and/or kill you if you allow your skin to come into contact with it. Most of all the steering wheel. Long time desert dwellers develop “Zonie hands” which are large, calloused areas on the heels of your hands on which you no longer have any feeling. But until you develop these defense mechanisms it is best to heed the warning signs of burn injuries. The first of which is of course pain, followed almost immediately by the smell of burnt chicken. If you sit in a car and experience any of these symptoms, do a body check immediately. Something on you is on fire.

4. Never say to anyone who is a native, “Hot enough for ya?” The answer will always be “Yes, of course it is, idiot.” You think we enjoy it when it gets 115 degrees here? You think we want it hotter? Likewise, don’t say things like “Well, you don’t need to shovel sunshine,” because believe me, if shoveling some sunshine would bring some clouds and rain, most of us  would be shoveling it like mad.

Living in one of the sunniest places in the world (that’s a real thing – it has been measured), a beautiful day to us is one that involves storms and clouds. You can’t believe how boring “sunny and warm” can be after 100 plus days of it. And last….but not least by any means, NEVER say “But it’s a dry heat.” When it’s 115 outside, there is nothing dry on you. Besides, we have guns here. Many of us carry them. You could get shot and there isn’t a jury of peers in Arizona that would blame the shooter. Seriously. I’m not joking here. Just typing it makes me want to smash my computer.

5. Finally, the person driving in the summer with their windows down has the right of way, in all situations. Anyone with their windows down is driving a car with no air conditioning. That person is not stable. They would welcome death and probably wouldn’t mind bringing you along. And remember what I said, a lot of Arizonans are armed. Just let them run the red light or tailgate you. You have A/C and a reason to live. They don’t.

There are lots of great things to do and see here. Summer Adjacent is the best time to visit, of course, when the weather is beautiful and if you need a jacket at all, you only need a light one. Summer however, requires you to be a bit more selective. The good news is, when it is “hot enough for ya,” you can generally head to the north part of the state which usually maintains sensible summer temperatures to cool down.

But the rules stressed above are absolute and unyielding. If you follow these simple rules, you will survive the summer here (or in the case of rules 1 and 2, at least make it easier for others to survive and bury you). Ignore at your peril. 

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