Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Yon Coal Train

The fashion trend this season is layers. When dressing for a Midwest summer, or a summer anywhere that experiences temperatures regularly above 80° F along with high humidity, be sure to bring wool sweaters, coats, ski caps, leggings, and fur-lined gloves. These accessories are necessary because, although it may be 100° outside with 90% humidity, the instant you step indoors the temperature will drop so quickly to the arctic extreme that the sweat on your skin will, if left unprotected, instantly freeze into what Midwesterners call Ice Scabs. Ice Scabs are not as painful as they sound, but if you’re inexperienced with Ice Scabs and try to bend your limbs before they are scraped off, then Ice Scabs will turn into Dermal Ice Fractures, which are as painful as they sound. The trick is to add the layers on each limb as you walk through the door, in one fluid motion—-easy once you get the hang of it.

I learned about summer layering during a recent visit to Lawrence, Kansas. I wondered why they needed to keep buildings so damn cold—why cool would not be enough. Haven’t these people heard of global warming? (Turns out they haven’t—many of them went to see “An Inconvenient Truth” last summer, but because the theaters were so cold they were all wearing earmuffs and so no one heard what Al Gore was saying—with all the graphs on screen they assumed it was a longer, more-boring, live-action version of “Harold and the Purple Crayon.”)

I had idle time to think upon these things when I was in Lawrence, stopped at a railroad crossing, waiting for a long long train to pass. I decided that they—we—keep it so damn cold because we can. We must prove we’re stronger than nature. When it’s night time we must light ever square foot of land with street lights: Darkness is conquered! And when it’s hot we must prove to nature that we can beat her heat.

The train I was waiting on was a coal train, delivering its regular load of coal to the nearby power plant. 143 cars stuffed with coal that will warm the globe so that we can chill every bit of indoor space to temperatures lower than those we bundle up against in the winter. As the last of the 143 cars rolled on by I thought about our collective societal I.Q and wondered: If only we could use our stupidity for good instead of evil.

    If only we could use our stupidity for good instead of evil.
Then the train was gone, the railroad crossing gate rose, I pressed on the accelerator, and I stopped thinking.

Summer safety tip: If you’re visiting Walmart this summer, be sure to bring along a thermal reflective emergency blanket in case you get lost in an aisle. You don’t want to end up like this guy.

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