A nightmare

“Heat wave” is among the latest long-established terms to endure official persecution (along with “father,” “mother,” “son,” “daughter,” “sister,” “brother,” &c). From Al Gore down, the weathergirls are instructed not to use it, for it is not “scientific.” This, I suppose, is because everyone knows what it means. A scientific term should be comprehensible only to scientists. They may not understand it themselves, but the important thing is that we can’t understand it.

Let me provide the old definition, in a spirit of nostalgia. A “heat wave” is when the temperature stays abnormally high for a long time. The subtlety here is that, if it goes on long enough, the night temperatures also climb, so there is no relief. Still, or dead air helps rub it in: no breezes. And humidity: let’s not forget that. And then the pope comes along to tell you that air conditioning is wrong. Well, okay, that was not part of the original definition.

There are heat waves currently in both America and Europe. In Canada, a few dozen people have died as a direct result: mostly oldies living up high in unairconditioned urban apartments. (People like me.) But only a few dozen. We have had heat waves here, there, and elsewhere in which thousands have died. God cool their souls. We lose thousands each year from commonplace influenza, and more from traffic accidents. It is no big deal; the meejah haven’t made an issue. For as Stalin said, a single death is a tragedy, but a million is a statistic. He understood the meejah well.

Everything gets boring if it is repeated long enough; even pain can get quite boring. I, for instance, am getting comatosely bored with the current heat wave. The fact I have also contracted some kind of common flu, with heavy nasal congestion, and cannot sleep, adds to the tedium.

Well, there I go, exaggerating. I do get some sleep. Why, last night I must have been asleep for more than an hour, at one stretch, until awakened by a memorable nightmare.

As a good Catholic, always obedient to the pope, I don’t have air conditioning up here in the High Doganate. I do, however, have a watch-battery high-tech oven thermometer gizmo, left me by my late mama. Hardly ever use it, but curiosity got the better of me. It told me the air in here is 116F. And yet it is only 93F outside, on my balconata! … Let me hype this for a moment, as if I were a weathergirl.

Wonderful heat retention qualities, this 1962 masonry edifice. Classic death row design, to prevent cross breezes. Marvellous greenhouse effects, from giant, industrial, west-facing windows. If the architect were still alive, I should like to have him up for tea. And, you know, lock him in for a week or two. He would be beating on the door, begging to be put out of his misery. But ha, I’m pro-life!

In this dream, some unpleasant person — no doubt a liberal or progressive — or architect of some sort — perhaps a city planner — had locked me in a coffin and buried me six feet underground in the trackless Amazon forest. He had, however, driven a narrow pipe from the ground through a hole bored in the coffin, so that I could get some steamy air, and he could utter taunts, and slide down stinging insects. I was beginning to feel something like claustrophobia, which I’m sure, like other phobias, is now against the law. I could shout up the pipe, but decided since the only one to hear would be the unpleasant person, I would save my breath. Rather, stay perfectly silent, in the hope he might get curious, and dig me up again. (“Strategy, strategy.”) Meanwhile I was thinking, no lavatory down here; and wondering how long it takes to die in such circumstances.

Happily, I woke, and while still oppressed by heat and stuffiness I reflected, it’s not so bad up here. Things could be worse. Thank you, O master of dreams, for that reminder.