The School Bus Sprint
Dr. Andy discovers a personal climate change
This past Wednesday I walked to downtown Davis to meet my wife Kate for a warm outdoor lunch. I feel lucky to have such a lunch partner, and to have such a pleasant walk to the restaurant district of my hometown.
As I walked home afterwards, I listened to a New York Timespodcast about the fearsome heat wave that had recently descended upon the Pacific Northwest, baking people whose homes were not outfitted with air conditioners. Hundreds of people died not just because of the extreme temperatures – record-breaking highs were as many as nine degrees higher than previous record highs – but also because their bodies had not adapted to the heat. One could imagine that if those same temperatures had hit Phoenix, far fewer people would have died.
As I was digesting this story, and what the rise in global temperatures might mean for all of us, my phone rang. Kate called to tell me that my son Jukie’s school bus had arrived 25 minutes early, and I was still a mile from home! I started to run.
There was a time when running was my natural and preferred means of locomotion. When I first moved to California in 1989, I would run at least five miles a day, many of those miles up in the hills of north Berkeley. That’s where I ran my first marathon, or so I figure, for I left Indian Rock one Saturday at 8 AM, ran for a few hours, got lost in Orinda, and then eventually retraced my steps and ran home, arriving around dinnertime. If a casual marathoner finishes in four hours, I figure that I completed at least that distance over eight hours.
But in the 21st century, I biked for the first 20 years, and then walked for the next year and a half. Now that I’ve cut back my drinking from at least twice a week to about twice a month, and now that I walk about six miles a day with Jukie, you would think that I would be in excellent shape. But as I began my emergency run last Wednesday, I felt like the Portlanders who had to acclimate instantly to a 30-degree rise in temperatures: I was unprepared.
Overheated and exhausted, I arrived at my front door ten minutes after getting Kate’s call, pretending to my neighbors and other passersby that I meant to be out jogging in a button-down shirt, and that I was always that shade of crimson. Having escorted Jukie from his bus into our cooler home, I still felt as if I were in a sauna, sweating, as the Brits say, like a turkey at Christmas.
So, like our overheated earth, I thought I was in good shape, but really I’m not. I have more work to do when it comes to protecting our planet (local action first), and strengthening my body and lungs. Isak Dinesen once said that “The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.” Some people, I’m sure, experience all three at the same time. I myself have cried my share of tears over the last 18 months, and because of my recent school bus sprint, I have sweated as I rarely do.
Now I am ready for a break, the sort that teachers get. Air conditioning is nice, but I seek deeper relief, so I have scheduled my dip in the Pacific. While I enjoy my work, I agree with Clarence Day: “The ant is knowing and wise, but he doesn't know enough to take a vacation.” I do! Do you?
Thanks for reading, thanks to the stalwarts who have made newsletters like this possible, and welcome aboard to the new subscribers.
P.S. Here are three questions from our last Pub Quiz:
Mottos and Slogans. What retailer has been using the tagline "Expect More. Pay Less" since 1994?
Newspaper Headlines. What is the last name of the 14-year-old from New Orleans, Louisiana, who won the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee crown after correctly spelling “murraya” -- a type of tree -- that she associated with the famous comedian Bill Murray?
Four for Four. Which of the following countries, if any, have capital cities that start with the letter K (as in Kate): Afghanistan, Jamaica, Nepal, Peru?