Saunders: Summer, we hardly knew ye this year

08/27/2014 6:27 PM

08/28/2014 5:45 AM

Many years ago, I was walking down Angier Avenue in Durham around 1 a.m., humming a hymn, when some men rushed by and knocked me into a sin den called Brothers III.

Before I could find the exit three hours later, I heard the owner ask, “Where’s Summer Breeze?”

Summer Breeze was a talented exotic dancer, and it was her time to go onstage. The deejay had already begun playing her theme song by the Isley Brothers, but Summer was nowhere in sight.

That long-ago night – or at least that question – comes to mind often these days, when many of us are probably asking, “Where’s summer?”

Where, indeed. Like Summer the exotic dancer, summer the season wasn’t ready to go onstage when its song came on.

I am a member of an aggrieved minority – people who don’t even turn on their air conditioners until the temperature reaches 90 – so I realize that the absence of oppressive heat is a blessing to some people. One friend said his upstairs air conditioning system broke and the mild weather means he hasn’t had to fix it. Others won’t have to mortgage their homes to pay their power bills.

Not a blessing

The mild temperatures are not a blessing to local air conditioning repair companies. Leslie, an employee at Carolina Air Conditioning in Durham, said business has been “much slower” this year. Because people aren’t running their units all the time, they’re less likely to break down, she said.

Nor have the mild temperatures been a boon to city coffers. Cynthia Booth of Durham’s parks department said 1,000 fewer people sought to escape what heat there was by leaping into the city’s outdoor pools this summer than in 2013.

It’s impossible these days to discuss the weather without provoking a political debate about whether global warming or climate change or Obama’s vacations are causing it.

Those of us who long to wilt in the heat don’t care. We just know one thing: “This stinks.”

February is bearable only because we know that June, July and August will eventually arrive, like a big brother chasing away a bully, to chase away winter and thaw out our bones. This, however, is the second straight year where summer – like an overhyped summer “blockbuster” movie – has proven to be a letdown.

Remember last year when it seemingly rained every other day and the guy who mowed your lawn every other other day made so much money that he retired?

This year, too, has seen a surfeit of soggy sod. Barrett Smith, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the Triangle is running more than 6 inches ahead of the average rainfall for July and August.

Smith also said sweltering summers when the temperatures were in the 90s and triple-digits were the anomalies: This year’s temperatures, while lower than normal, are only a few degrees lower, because of the abundant rain. He patiently explained why – something about a high-pressure ridge over California – but my eyes glazed over.

Not a real summer

Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer, and whether you complain about the weather or not, here are ways to know we’ve not had a real one:

• When the local meteorologists aren’t whining about it being too hot, even though it’s August in North Carolina and anything less than triple-digit temperatures should be considered “seasonably warm.”
• When you can’t find a good watermelon.
• When you haven’t seen one TV news report on workers unlucky enough to have to work outside in the heat – or lucky enough to work loading ice.
• When there hasn’t been a single Frankie Beverly & Maze sighting.
• When not one person has come up to you and asked “Hot enough for ya?” nor has anyone said, “It’s not the heat, its the humidity.”

This summer, it’s been neither.

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