Once again, I breathe a chilly sigh of relief as my train arrives safely at the station. These past few weeks have been brutally hot and nerve wracking. Everyone is snapping at each other. Irritable. Cranky. An official heat wave has been declared on Long Island.
Descending down into the subway station literally takes your breath away. The air is close and stuffy, with the tangy smell of sweaty bodies mixed in. Your clothes dampen and hug your skin. The hot rush of air ahead of the train as it pulls in makes you swoon.
Then… sweet relief as the doors open and the blast of chilled air ices the damp clothes and causes you to shiver. It’s not like it was 20 years ago when I was riding the subway into work. You almost never got onto a C train if you could help it…not only were they old and decrepit, they almost always lacked air conditioning. The narrow bench seats allowed for a few riders to sit the long way into Manhattan while the rest of us stood, grasping swinging triangles of slick metal- two or three hands to a strap, oftentimes sliding and resting on each other.
Thankfully I am tall, and never suffered the “armpit in the face” much. I was usually upwind of the unwashed.
My calculated time in the heat per day is approximately an hour and a half- a little more if I go out for lunch or to the library. I spend most of my day on the business side of chilly. I usually need a sweater or long sleeves to be comfortable at work and on the commute. The bus is arctic, the train is frigid and the workplace is polar.
Home is where the heat is. Advantages of having three 30 foot oak trees on our property are few, but they definitely cut the heat and keep the house a little cooler than our neighbor’s. But for days and days of hot and humid weather, it feels like the heat is infused in the walls and the floors and the furniture. Our only relief are the small air conditioners in our bedrooms. Excuses are made to spend time in our rooms before bed. Our rooms are clean.
My worries don’t lie with the heat. I breathe a sigh of relief when the train pulls in because once again I’ve survived the commute under the river and through the tunnels. The lights haven’t gone out and the train didn’t stop. We were not plunged into darkness and uncertainty.
My work day ends and the lights stayed on and our computers did not flicker and our phones did not cut out and I am grateful.
As I leave the elevator that delivers me safely to the ground floor of my high-rise office, I say a silent prayer of thanks that again, the lights have not gone out and the elevator did not stop. I did not plunge 37 floors into darkness and uncertainty.
I cross the streets warily, watching to make sure the traffic lights haven’t winked out and the neon in Times Square is still blinking. I descend the stairwell to the subway station not minding the heat and the smell and the electric mood of the passengers. I clutch my water bottle and touch my granola bars with crossed fingers hoping this won’t be the day the lights go out.