Tapping Out to the Heat and Traffic

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. -Reinhold Niebuhr

For the most part, I am an easy-going, reasonable man who attempts to apply logic to all situations. But I am merely a human. Sometimes when things don’t go my way, I lose my sh*t. Recently, two things – both completely out of my control – have made me cranky. Chances are, you’re dealing with them, too.

After 15 minutes of blasting away on high.

After 15 minutes of blasting away on high.

I love air conditioning. I look forward to any chance to use it. In-laws coming over for dinner? AC! Friends coming over to watch the World Cup? AC! Other people’s comfort gives me an excuse to crank that sucker up and back in 70-degree glory. I think of my parents and brothers and sister-in-law who do not have the option of air conditioning. I think of how hot it is in their home and I feel bad for them. I want to take them away from all of that. Most of all though, how the hell did I ever live in that house? I remember waking up from naps and having to peel myself off of sweat-soaked sheets. I remember having the Vornado 6 inches from the edge of my bed on full blast all night.

I can’t remember a stretch of time where we’ve had to use the AC so much. Madison has slept in her own room only once in the last month because she doesn’t have AC in her room and sending her there to sweat it out seems inhumane. Generally, I am unwilling to literally pay the price of air conditioned bliss. While that comfort is delicious in the moment, it always proves to be a pyrrhic victory once the bill from Hawaiian Electric comes. This ambivalence troubles me nearly as much as the oppressive heat does. But on days like yesterday when I take a cold shower, dry off, then immediately begin sweating, I feel as if I have no choice. This weather is something I can’t change, but the temperature in my tiny little bedroom is something I can.

I put the unit on the auto-setting so that it would shut off at 73 degrees. But then I wake up in the middle of the night with sweat on my upper lip and behind my knees and I growl and pop out of bed, then walk to the unit to lower the base setting. Then I realize that I haven’t memorized the layout of the buttons so I have to walk back to the bedside table to get my phone to use it as a light at which point Lynnette growls because it’s too bright. Life is a million tiny battles just like this one.

You know, just in case.

You know, just in case.

It’s finally happened. There is no discernible difference in traffic regardless of whether I leave at 3:15 or 3:30. Five or six years ago, I would meet mild traffic if I left the school at 4. “My co-worker Mariel and I referred to this as the witching hour.” We would be hanging out, grading assignments, or whatever, but as soon as 4:00 crept around, it all came to a stop. We got into  our cars and left. Recently, that time has moved up to 3:30. Since school has been in session this year, however, I’ve found that it’s moved up even further. If I leave Kalihi at 3:15, I will encounter stop-and-go traffic at Tripler. It remains as such until I get on H2. It takes everything in my power not to drive 80 MPH simply because I can and also I’ve just spent the past 30 minutes doing 10 MPH. I’ve come to grips with it: afternoon traffic has become unavoidable.

Last Thursday when everyone was trying to get home ahead of Hurrican Iselle, it took me 30 minutes to get from work to the top of Red Hill. Then it took me another half-hour to get from the top of Red Hill to H2. By then, my bladder had done everything in its power to prevent an accident in my pants.

I flew up H2. I thought I could make it, but did not anticipate that every single human being residing in Mililani Mauka with access to an automobile would be attempting to get home at the same time. It took three stop light rotations to get to the front of the line to turn left off the main road. This is going to happen. I could not move my car off to the side of the road. I was boxed in. I took the empty Starbucks bottle and did what I had to do. I am not proud of it. I will spare you all of the unseemly details.

Impossibly, Lynnette was right behind me as I pulled into the garage (I told you everyone was trying to get home!). She saw me get out of the car with my belt, button, and zipper undone. She shot a glance of WTF at me through her windshield. I explained to her what happened. “Gross,” she said when she saw the bottle. She and I advanced upstairs. “Madison, daddy had an accident!” Lynnette shouted gleefully. Great, now I’m a hypocrite, too. Since Lynnette’s parents pick Mad up, they were waiting in the living room. I am sure their first thought was “automobile accident.” But no. I had to do the walk of shame into my own house. I told them the story and they were rolling.

I never want to have this happen again. I force myself to use the bathroom on the walk from my classroom to my car, even if I don’t feel the urge to go. I stand in the bathroom and nothing happens. Then, I think of things like What if a I’m driving next to a lifted truck and they can see my lap and I can’t use the same stealth technique as last time? That usually works.

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