The hellish hot heat

It is 7 am as I begin this post. I’ve been awake since before 5 am (MRI on my messed up knee–one of the much sought after middle of the night appointments. I only waited 2 months for it! Have you ever had an MRI? It’s rather like being in a mysterious torture device in a 1970s Sci-Fi film–i.e., very loud and very boring. I was encouraged to wear an alluring ensemble comprising double-layered hospital gowns, my socks, and a hair net. The hair net left an even more alluring dent in my forehead, which I unknowingly sported all the way home on the subway–surprisingly packed at 6 am, by the way.)

I had big plans of taking either the aptly named “vomit comet” (i.e., after hours public transit) or riding my bike to this appointment. I love being outside early in the morning. Everything is incredibly quiet and those who are out and about at 4-5 am never fail to interest. I slept in, however, and barely made my appointment because I cleverly set my alarm for 4 pm instead of 4 am. But my magical internal clock woke me at 4:45 and with the help of a reckless and impatient cab driver, I got there in time.

I still saw some interesting characters along the way, in spite of the fact that we were fairly approaching light speed in our decidedly not space-ready cab: a portly bearded fellow sporting a backpack, earphones, a liberal dose of groove and going like hell down the street on his rollerblades; two elderly Chinese (I think) men doing Tai Chi on the sidewalk of a decidedly un-serene and un-park-like main street; a 30-something guy in a winter coat with several bags of what looked like take-out deliciousness. This is the beauty of 5 am; by 6 am, it’s just a bunch of folk going to work.

But the winter coat…friends, I don’t know what this guy was thinking. At 4:55 am, I went outside in my capris and t-shirt and was immediately stunned by how close and hot it was. I stupidly persist in thinking of 5 am as the last oasis of fresh air and gentle but refreshing breezes. Then I remembered I was in Toronto and that it’s almost June, and laughed at my naiveté.

You see, it was 25C/felt like mid-30C (90-91F-ish) this morning in the dark. And now it’s getting steadily warmer as the sun comes up. This would all be fine…if it hadn’t started in the middle of the night and it were July. I grew up in a place where this was as hot as it ever got, ever. EVER.* I never needed air-conditioning until I moved to Toronto and there have been years since I arrived during which the a/c didn’t get turned off once, not even for 5 minutes, between May and early October!! There have been heat waves here during which I’ve been afraid to sleep because I really believed I wouldn’t wake up. There have been heat waves that have kicked the shit so hard out our a/c that I woke up weeping from heat exhaustion while sleeping directly next to said a/c.

I’ve lived here 8 years now. I don’t appear to be acclimatizing to the hellish hot heat. I remember, with a pain deep in my chest, when summer was the most beautiful thing in the world. Now it’s something to be endured; it’s so effing hot here** that it actually destroys proper grammatical constructions. You see, today’s temperature? This is nothing to what’s coming; the real hellish hot heat comes inexorably towards us now, a climatological juggernaut as unpalatable and irresistible as a new Adam Sandler film. Days and days of the high 40s (120F-ish; thank goodness for the interwebs) and no relief at night because all the asphalt absorbs the heat all day and obligingly returns it to us all night. Sunshine so intense you can actually feel your skin crackling and burning like it’s on a grill.

I thought I was in Canada? I’m clearly on the wrong side of the weather cliché border here.

So. A few things related to the hellish hot heat. First, there’s this thing that people who’ve traveled a lot sometimes do and which I think probably deserves a punch dead in the face. Sample conversation:

Me: Uggg, it’s been 45C for a week! I can’t sleep, I can’t wake up, I can’t go outside, I can’t breathe inside. Why ever did I leave Nova Scotia???

Some douchebag, scoffingly: Oh, this isn’t hot! I’ve been to Ghana/hell/wherever is even hotter than it is here. People have no idea what heat is–


This is not a helpful thing to say. It doesn’t change the fact that the threshold between extremely uncomfortable and death from heat isn’t the same for everyone. And if the city has to set up official cooling centres everywhere here, then it’s still really bloody warm even if we’re not being cooked alive quite as quickly you were in Ghana, hell, or wherever.

Next, there’s the issue of what to eat during times of hellish hot heat. Minimizing the use of the stove, but especially the oven, is crucial. Last summer, I discovered the joy of uncooked rolled oats for breakfast. They require a little extra chewing, it’s true, but that won’t generate nearly as much heat as standing over the stove cooking and stirring them will.

Colleen’s breakfast cereal of extreme tastiness and non-cookingness

Serves one

  • Two handfuls large rolled oats
  • Two handfuls fresh berries (blackberries are the best here, I think)
  • One tablespoon flax meal
  • One teaspoon cinnamon

Mix all these and then drown in cold, cold milk of your choice (for me, unsweetened soy or almond).

Also, salad and more salad for dinner. And cooking grains at night or first thing in the morning so that doesn’t have to happen during the day or early evening when moving to the Yukon seems like probably the smartest thing anyone could do. Also, making tea first thing in the morning and then sticking it in the fridge for cold tea later in the day. All these are very necessary in the hellish hot heat.

Finally, there’s the issue of summer reading. All over the Twitter, people are talking about summer reads as something markedly differentiated in terms of subject matter and tone from fall, winter, and spring reads. I don’t get this. Good books are good books. I require the same level of mental and aesthetic stimulation all year round, regardless of how physically uncomfortable and boiled-looking I am.

Perhaps this presupposes a certain move towards beach reading, and I just don’t understand. I admit, I haven’t been on a beach since 2000 and then I spent a great deal of time stopping the local children from stealing my stuff and wondering how ocean water could actually be hot, and feeling sad about it. I don’t understand the concept of putting grease all over my skin so I can deep-fry in public; besides getting sunscreen all over my books, I don’t want the skin cancer or the heat stroke.

Apart from not going to Ghana, eating mostly uncooked food, and reading normally, there’s nothing else to do to cope with the hellish hot heat except to lie still and think of Nova Scotia. How do you deal with the heat?

*Which I realize is much too hot for some people with different internal thermometers than mine; and I sympathize.

**I have been to places hotter than this, but they all had much better air quality. I think that’s key.

9 Comments Add yours

  1. I lie down. The first waves of heat in a new season (now that I live outside my natural was born in habitat) always take me back to my first visit to Nigeria, I couldn’t understand why I felt so jetlagged and needed to sleep when it was only a one hour time difference from London, and why was no one else being affected like me?

    It was a kind of semi consciousness, I now rationalise it as, ok this body needs an adjustment period, so get horizontal while it does what it has to do and forget about everyone else, this body has a different genetic footprint.

    It kind of makes me wonder if we are all guilty of having moved these bodies around the planet too much and too quickly, they are supposed to adapt over thousands of years as we slowly migrate on foot or mule or whatever, now with planes, trains and automobiles we are messing up all those slow burning, adjusting signals.

    Well thats my 2 cents worth, not worth much these days either 🙂

    1. Colleen says:

      No, that makes sense, I think. Also, the quality of air can change so radically over relatively short distances. When I go back to Nova Scotia (ocean-bound) from Toronto (lake-fronting, but not the same), I feel almost drunk on the delicious smell of the sea air…

  2. heidenkind says:

    I never got “summer reading” either. But I do read a lot more in summer because I can sit outside, which is my favorite place to read.

    Heat never bothers me (I do wake up earlier when it’s hot, but I actually enjoy that), but cold does. And when I whine about the cold, my mom (who grew up in Chicago) says, “You don’t know cold. In Chicago we couldn’t open the door because there was so much snow. We had to climb through the window!” It’s very annoying.

    1. Colleen says:

      Reading outside is my favourite as well! Muskoka chairs, ice-cubed drinks, and good books–nothing like it. 🙂

      And maybe she did have to climb through the window…but now, global warming. Things have changed noticeably since I was a kid! True winters are hard to come by these days…

  3. Stefanie says:

    I sympathize for you in the heat. I hope it has or is cooling off. I grew up without a/c in southern California in an area where is regularly got over 100 in the summer and I don’t know how I managed it. Now, in Minnesota when it hits 80 it is too hot. When I first moved here in 1994 there were maybe 5 days during the end of July and early August when it was above 90 and now we hit 90 in March this year and it seems like there are more and more really hot days. I always think I’m going to have to move to Canada to get cooler weather, maybe Toronto, but clearly Toronto will not be the place for me to move!

    1. Colleen says:

      Canada does have cool spots — east coast, west coast, and north! But Toronto is quite far south and not near any ocean to cool it down. Also, the pollution. I dream of moving to the west coast but am no longer sure I could handle all the rain…I’m annoyingly complicated.

      But it has cooled down here. It’s cloudy and totally manageable. 🙂

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