Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Heat Bin

I was all set to write this big long whiny post about just how damn hot it is here, but it's so damn hot everywhere, and it's already been covered by him and her and everyone else, so I realize that really there is no point. I have nothing new to add and no original way to talk about the subject. I was searching and searching for a better analogy to describe a 101-degree day with not a cloud in the sky than "It's like standing in a fully-preheated oven," but really that's simply the best I could do. Brain cells have probably vaporized in the heat; how can I possibly expect creativity under those circumstances?

Besides that, the good, sweet weather gods have finally granted some reprieve and given us a break for one brief day. I truly never thought that 85 degrees would feel refreshing, but it turns out I was wrong. It's kind of like the relief we feel when the temperature jets up to 15 degrees after a week or more of sub-zeros. Fifteen degrees is, under normal circumstances, far from balmy, and yet, when it follows several days of minus 12, I've found myself leaving my coat unbuttoned and only casually pulling on gloves.

But I wasn't going to go on and on about the weather, remember? Sorry about that. I am a Midwesterner, you know, and talking about the weather is apparently in our blood. Moving on (or, at least, over to the side just a bit)...

The summer I was fourteen, my family went to Florida for a week. Despite it being one of the few "real" family vacations we took, my memories of the trip are hazy and limited. My primary recollection of that week is simply of being hot and annoyed. The hot part was to be expected, of course, it being Florida in June and all. As for the annoyance? Well, I was a moody and petulant teenager, so I likely spent most of the trip wishing my parents would stop talking to me and simply let me spend my days sleeping in, watching Days of Our Lives, and relaxing by myself at the pool. Instead, they wanted to pile all five of us into the vinyl-seated station wagon with the broken air conditioner and take us to Disneyworld and Gatorland. Shocking, I know. Someone should have called Social Services.

Since we spent each day sweating and burning in the sun, my father felt the need to recoup each night by setting the air conditioner in our rental condo to a frigid 42 degrees. I may be exaggerating a tad, but I do think it's quite possible we could see our breath as we reached for an extra blanket to wrap around our already sweatshirted selves. It's entirely likely that, had we left the milk carton out on the kitchen counter all night, it would still have been fresh and safe for drinking in the morning. Maybe my father really felt comfortable with the crisp air whirring around him; maybe he was just mad with excitement at the opportunity to run an air conditioner without being responsible for the electric bill. Regardless, the only reprieve my sisters and I had from the refrigerated condo was the screened-in porch situated off of the living room. We called this area the Heat Bin.

The Heat Bin was essentially a sauna, without aid of any coals or coils or other unnatural heating element. The air was thick and hot and almost hard to breathe. And yet, after an hour or two in the meat locker that was our living room for the week, the Heat Bin was oddly calming, for few brief moments, at least.

Despite how little else I remember of that trip, I think of the Heat Bin every summer, nearly every day. Last weekend, the Heat Bin was every area of my house, but on a normal day, it is simply my car. Some days, the stifling warmth of my sun-baked car actually feels good after nine hours in an overly air-conditioned office. But lately? Lately, not so much. Lately, the first 20 minutes of my drive--while the AC in my eight-year-old Saturn slowly struggles to cool the 90+ degree air from outside--have been downright uncomfortable. And when I'm uncomfortable, I'm likely to get cranky, and anyone who knows me knows I typically don't need any help with that.

Anyone who knows me also knows I'm not generally the type of person who's apt to buy something from an infomercial. Sure, I may grudgingly endure a Magic Bullet promo when there's absolutely nothing else on TV, but I've yet to pick up the phone and provide my credit card number. Last week, however? Last week I was so weary of enduring the Heat Bin every day that this actually looked like a brilliant solution. So brilliant, in fact, that I wanted one right away. None of that shipping time nonsense. What I'm about to admit is something of which I'm not proud. I own up to this only because I'm among friends (right?). The truth is, I wanted an AutoCool, and I wanted it now, so I made a special trip to the Mall of America (you know--that mall I avoid at all costs?) specifically for the "As Seen on TV" store.

What's worse is this was not the first time I've entered the As Seen on TV store with a particular purchase in mind. Several years ago, I actually purchased an Ab Slide because I honestly believed it would be as fun and effortless and effective as the infomercial promised. The woman behind me in line was clutching an Ab Slide box as well. I wonder if her quest for a six-pack was any more successful than mine.

Sadly, the As Seen on TV store let me down this time. Perhaps the AutoCool is too new to the market, or perhaps there's no room on the shelves with all the Floam and urine-stain remover they're stocking (and enthusiastically advertising in the windows).

It's probably just as well that I didn't waste my money. I'm not very science-minded at times, so it didn't initially occur to me that, on a 95-degree day, blowing 95-degree air into a 110-degree car really won't do much to keep the temperature at bay. On a regular mid-80s summer day, though? Am I crazy to believe it could work? The Internet knows everything, so I'm posing the question to you. AutoCool: real or hoax? I don't think Snopes is on this one, so clue me in if you're in-the-know.

Incidentally, my trip to the Mall of America was not entirely fruitless, as I did snag a pair of Tevas for $23 on clearance. It doesn't help my Heat Bin situation at all, but at least my feet will be cool and comfy on my next canoe outing later this month.


Guinness_Girl said...

I am ridiculously disappointed that you didn't ACTUALLY purchase the AutoCool, because I have been entranced by those commercials as of late. Damn you, As Seen On TV Store!

I particularly like the part of the ad when they talk about how your purchase also gets you (FREE!) weather-stripping for your window. Awesome.

Please order one of these (so I don't have to) and report back. Pretty please? With sugar on top?

nabbalicious said...

Ooh, if you get the AutoCool, you have to tell us if it works. I felt a little sucked in by that infomercial just now.

My all-time favorite infomercial is the one with the "set it and forget it" cookware. You know, the kind where you can cook a pot roast on the bottom half of the pot and a cake on the top half, all while your kids are at soccer practice?

I never was actually brave enough to buy it, but sometimes I still wake up in the middle of the night and think, "I wonder if it actually worked?" Oh, it haunts me.

Darren said...

Being in a subway station in this kind of heat is what I imagine it would be like to be shrunk down and put into someone's mouth. I guess that's a different way of decribing the heat.

nabbalicious said...

I was all set to agree with that, Darren, until I realized: I don't have rats, homeless people or, um, pee in my mouth.

Wait, did I just go too far with that one?

stefanie said...

GG & Nabb--Rest assured that if I cave and buy the AutoCool, I will return with a full report.

Darren--You've just proven me wrong. Apparently one can still be clever despite the mind-numbing heat. That was disgustingly vivid, but hilarious.

To both you and Nabbalicious, however, I have to say you've just violated that unwritten rule about the comments being better than the post. Too far indeed, Nabb, but I still snorted when I read that.

Anonymous said...

I, too, have been seduced by promises of the AutoCool. I want one, I can't lie.

I love the idea of a 'heat bin.' My car has functioned as such, even on the warmest of days. It helps that my commute is approximately three minutes though. By the time the A/C kicks in, I'm pulling into my driveway. Ah, the benefit of small-town life.

-R- said...

I vote that the AutoCool is a hoax. I actually laughed out loud while watching the commercial. And yet, if you buy one, I will fully support the purchase.

More importantly, don't dis the MOA!