Early Wednesday morning, there were flashing lights, rumbling and a roar. Was it thunder and lightning or North Korea? Either seemed possible.

Thunder and lightning brought rain. Brought, for a minute, relief, 70-degree weather and almost an out-of-body experience. It delivered a message: Don’t give up, yet.

Whatever the temperature has been — 112, 105 or 100 — the heat is our great shared misery. If we were looking for a post-eclipse event to bring us together, this is it.

If summer is one season, then extreme heat is almost another. Extreme heat is a mathematical equation as in the square, where one number is multiplied by itself. Multiply summer by summer and you get this week.

Nothing works like it should. Air conditioning that seemed rock solid at 100, passable at 105, goes shaky when it reaches 110.

Air conditioning guys are hiding or rejoicing. They are taking calls that go something like this: “My air conditioner has to be broken and it’s only 4 or 5 years old. The air is not that cold.”

I couldn’t remember the last time I changed the filter on ours, because it’s hard to remember anything in late August, so I changed it, which required climbing to the top of a 6-foot metal ladder stationed on a squishy, oatmeal-colored rug.

If I speared my hand with the oversized screwdriver or fell and broke my femur, at least I’d end up in the hospital where I could enjoy industrial-strength air conditioning.

PG&E bill? I don’t want to know. A friend at work told me his was $380 last month and he and his wife turn their air conditioning off at night.

Off at night? How do they do that? Is this a new weight-loss program? Kind of like wearing fat suits to bed?

Turn off the air conditioning at night? We sleep upstairs and if we didn’t run the air conditioner at night, we’d slip off the sheets every time we turned over as if we’d lost our sled during a two-man bobsled run.

Extreme heat requires a decision: Go into total retreat mode, stay inside, pull down the shades and extinguish all available light because light is heat and heat-squared is this week.

Retreat or fly toward the sun like Icarus.

I tell myself, or delude myself, that there is something cleansing about sweating, not just sweating but sweating like eight Norwegians in a six-man sauna.

“You sweat it all out,” I’ve been telling people as if I were a medicine man for the Hoh Indian tribe.

“Sweat it all out,” I repeat.

What I didn’t say was that the Hohs may not have replenished with vodka — you hardly taste the vodka at all — Pellegrino Limonato and crushed ice.

I stained the back deck over the weekend and I sweat so much that I sealed in water spots that dripped nonstop from my forehead. Big spots, little spots, black spots, white spots. The deck looks like a Dalmatian.


Wednesday morning, after the rain, the sun came out. I looked at the phone and it said 86 degrees. I’ll take it. We’ll take it. We’re bonded and in this together.

Contact Californian columnist Herb Benham at 661-395-7279 or hbenham@bakersfield.com. His work appears on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays; the views expressed are his own.

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