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Showering using a Dixie Cup during Midwest summer

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POSTED July 7, 2010 2:51 a.m.
Californians are wimps when it comes to weather.

I know this because I once made the mistake of venturing to Illinois and Missouri for 10 days in the middle of a normal June with temperatures and humidity in virtually a dead heat to reach 90.

I had left Sacramento on Piedmont Airlines at 2 p.m. wearing OP shorts and a pullover in 103-degree heat without a drop of sweat on me. I arrived in Champaign, Illinois at 10 p.m. In the 40 yards or so I walked from the plane to the terminal in 80-degree heat with humidity close behind I was dripping wet.

The next morning I went for a jog with Jack and Gail. It was surprisingly cool. They urged me to go ahead at a faster pace as they felt they were probably slowing me down. Ten minutes later they caught up with me laughing. My lungs felt like they had been scorched as I wasn’t used to running in heavy humidity. The same thing had happened to them on their first jog a few years earlier when they moved out from California when Jack took a job with the Champaign News-Gazette.

The fun was just beginning. I had reserved a car from Hertz for a week at a flat rate special of $170 that was offered for the Champaign-Urbana area. When I went to pick it up later that day I was informed that they did not have full size cars at that rate except for one without working air conditioning. They gave me a choice of going with a smaller car at the same rate or I could have the air conditioning fixed at a nearby Shell station and turn the bill into them for reimbursement.

Instead I demanded they provide the car they promised whether the air conditioning worked or not. It was the start of the most miserable week I’ve ever spent in a car.

We drove to St. Louis with the windows down sweating non-stop. Along the way we got intrigued by the signs that implored one to visit Meramec Caverns. After hitting the Arch and Union Station we decided we had to see Meramec Caverns and then head up to Hannibal instead of spending the night in St. Louis.

It was so cool in the caverns we didn’t want to leave. That wasn’t the worst part. We drove to Hannibal arriving there near midnight in one of the fiercest lightning storms I’ve ever seen.

We stopped at a Best Western that was full. The desk clerk called around and found a motel in East Hannibal that was on the other side of the Mississippi River via a one-lane bridge that had a vacancy.

It had double beds that each sunk about a foot or so in the middle. There was a wall air conditioning unit that made noise and didn’t do much else.

When I awoke in the morning Jack and Gail were sitting fully dressed on the edge of their bed waiting for me to get up.

I apologized but said I had to take a shower as I felt miserable. They told me “no problem” and added there were Dixie Cups in the bathroom. I didn’t understand what they meant. They said they’d go for a walk and be back in half an hour.

I brushed my teeth and shaved. I then went to turn on the shower. It was nothing more than a drip. So I spent the next 20 minutes “showering” with a Dixie Cup in a room we paid a king’s ransom of $79. Back in 1988 you could have stayed at the Hyatt in San Francisco for just a few more dollars with the added bonus of showers that worked.

On our way back across the Mississippi, Gayle suggested we go for a ride on the riverboat.

It was there on the second deck in the shade that I really questioned my sanity for even bothering to shower. The sweat was literally pouring off me while doing essentially nothing but breathing. A nearby couple, sensing my discomfort and embarrassment, said they knew how I felt. I asked where they were from and they said they’d lived in New Orleans for 10 years adding that “you never get used to it.”

Two days later we were heading up to Chicago to catch a Cubs game. Jack and Gail were dressed in Levis and long-sleeved shirts. It was supposed to be 90 degrees. They kept asking whether I wanted to take a jacket and long pants for a 1 p.m. game. I thought they were nuts.

By the end of the seventh inning, though, I discovered I was the crazy one. The wind had shifted bringing in cold air off Lake Michigan. The temperature where we were sitting in the shade along the first base line dropped almost 30 degrees in 20 minutes.

Give me 110-degree days in the Central Valley or even a few 120-plus days I’ve experienced in Death Valley.

I can’t begin to imagine how anyone in New York City or Washington, D.C., this week can function with temperatures over 100 degrees and humidity not lagging far behind.
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