Saunders: It's cool to help your neighbors beat the heat

bsaunders@newsobserver.comJune 27, 2012 

Bless their hearts. You know they mean well, but local meteorologists are not renowned for being understated when it comes to forecasting the weather.

Some are known to casually toss around adjectives such as “brutal,” “blistering” and “oppressive” any time the temperatures top 80 degrees, showing their own bias for cooler temperatures and leaving many of us – OK, perhaps just me – to exclaim daily, “Dadgummit, it’s supposed to be hot. It’s summer in North Carolina!”

Their overheated rhetoric can leave us steaming, regardless of the temperature outside.

If the weatherladies and weathermen are correct about what’s expected to hit us over the next several days, though, we’d all be well-advised to heed their warnings.

The forecasts still include fear-inducing words that make you want to run out and purchase some fire-retardant Fruit of the Looms, but this time they also include even more dire phrases such as heat advisories, air quality alerts and excessive heat warnings.

Even someone such as I who loves the hot weather knows that in conditions like this, the best thing is to chill, figuratively and literally.

The most vulnerable

The people most vulnerable in this type of weather are old people. They are often the ones least able to escape to a cool place, least likely to turn on their air conditioner if they have one and – depending upon which type of neighborhood they live in – most unwilling to open a window to catch a breeze.

Both Durham and Wake counties have programs to provide fans and, in some instances, air conditioners for old people who meet certain qualifications. Online at, you can check whether you qualify for a fan or air conditioner. You can also call Denise Kissel with the Cool For Wake Program at 919-212-7083.

The phone number for the Durham Center for Senior Life is 919-688-8247.

But county governments have a finite number of fans and air conditioners to give out, while the number of people who’ll need cooling is infinite. That’s why they should consider some outside-the-hot-box solutions like, say, extending the hours of libraries.

But dude, you ask, won’t that cost money?

Sure it will, but protecting vulnerable citizens is worth the cost, don’t you think?

An idiot tax?

Gina Rozier, marketing and development manager for Durham County Library, said, “We don’t have the budget to extend the hours, but we’re open during the heat of the day.”

We could offset the cost of longer hours by fining those fitness freaks who’ll invariably decide that “Hey. 105-degree weather is the perfect time to go for a run.” We could call it an idiot tax.

Looking out for our neighbors is not the sole province of governments; it’s something we as individuals can do, too. You know that gabby old lonely widow next door, the one you usually just throw your hand up to and rush into the house because she’ll talk your ear off if you stop?

For God’s sake, go check on that lady and make sure she’s staying hydrated and cool. Maybe invite her over to the crib to play Yahtzee until it cools off.

And that cantankerous old man two doors down, the one who’s always yelling, “Hey you kids, get off of my lawn” even if he doesn’t have a lawn or you’re not on it?

Check in on him, too. Take him some ice water, ask if you can run some errands for him, offer to drop him off at the library or Piggly Wiggly so he can hang out in the frozen food section and get chilled.

For as it saith in the Bible, we are all our neighbor’s cooler. or 919-836-2811

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