If you saw a heat wave, would you wave back?
– Steven Wright
It hasn’t yet hit noon, the temperature outside is 37 degrees and in the words of Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning Vietnam, “it’s hot—damn hot!” If the BOM is right, it’ll only get filthier, today the first in a sweaty conga line of days set to breach the 40+ mark.
I sit holed up with a caffeine buzz in the downstairs kitchen of the Prince Albert Mansion, the coolest part of the house. So far, the old joint is holding up well, even upstairs. They don’t build houses like these anymore. It takes at least a few days of serious heat before you start to feel it, though it comes with a drawback. By Friday, the week’s worth of heat’ll be well and truly embedded in the double brick walls, and the Prince Albert will turn on us Jekyll-style into a lucid sweatbox, unfit for living, mocking all suggestion of cool change.
For this reason, swift plans have been implemented. My Chilean housemates and I have called shotgun on floor space in the kitchen, scheduled siestas at local cinemas, banks, and bottle shops, anywhere with industrial air-conditioning. If it gets filthy enough, we’ve got eyes on 7-11, business hammocks at the ready, to be hoisted somewhere near the back by the Slurpee machines.
Although this week will be the first real heatwave of the summer, there was a week in December that came pretty close. I’ll remember that week forever as the week of the “inconvenient virus.”
I was struck down with a fever. My throat glands felt like battered testicles, my gums swelled up red raw and a mouthful of razor-like ulcers made eating and drinking excruciating. I paid the local GP a visit, a beefy Hungarian named Dr Renato, who, after answering and slamming his landline phone a number of times in the two-minute examination, plunged a spatula down my throat, peered down it, and dished out a most inconvenient diagnosis.
“You’ve got Coxsackie virus.”
“…come again?” I said.
“Coxsackie—nothing to worry about, really. Should go soon, probably a few days. Here’s a script for some antibiotics anyway. And have a good Christmas.”
Sweet Jesus. This was going to be a tough one to explain. With any luck, the virus would be gone by Christmas—I could enjoy all the culinary treats of the festive season, and avoid having to explain this heinous title to my extended family.
I holed up for the following days in my jocks, watching Lawrence of Arabia and the entire three seasons of the British sitcom, Fresh Meat. The Prince Albert had already copped two hefty days of swelter and was beginning to feel like an armpit. Recovery conditions were not ideal.
Because chewing solids was not possible without screaming, my culinary options were slim. On one of these days, I hit rock bottom, forced to appease my busted appetite with all I could ingest – a box of frozen yogurt icy poles and some baby food. Who knew quinoa, mango and sweet potato united in mush could be so delicious?
Alas, the Coxsack did not leave. It stuck around through Christmas, and as I nibbled on white bread and salad, watching my family chow ham and crackling, I cursed Renato and his bollocksed prognosis, sheepishly explaining my condition to my aunts, uncles and grandparents, drawing raised eyebrows and slow nods of the head, backed by mockery and laughter at my expense.
Thankfully, come New Year’s Day, the Cocksack had finally purged itself from my system. Food and drink never tasted so incredible.
So too, hot weather will never be quite as offensive as it was during that inconvenient week.
Sure, it’s hot, and Glen Frey speaks truth – the heat definitely is on (particularly for him, spotted this week loading up on bumper packs of adult literature). It may not be the most convenient week, and we’ll likely feel an affinity for the fat Cayman Island guy in The Simpsons, muttering, “oh crap” as we fan ourselves with shell leaves and yearn for chillier climes. But keep in mind, it could be a lot worse.
In the 1880s, when the Prince Albert Mansion was built, Melbourne’s gutters were rife with scraps, slops and human ablution. On torrid days, the whole damn city would have stunk like Naples did after its mafia-run garbage collectors went on strike and began dumping trash into the disused subway system. And forget Coxsackie—diphtheria and typhoid were the heatwave diseases du jour.
With all that in mind, I retain a little perspective (but never too much). Remedied by a little Frey-brand 80s horn-shade, I salute the impending heatwave—inconvenient, but not too inconvenient—thankful it’s 2014 and not 1880, the pain and stigma of Coxsack a distant memory, and with open arms, healthy gums and an appetite restored, I sing “whoaa-oh-oh,” and wave on back.