Thoughts from the ammo line

Ammo Grrrll memorializes A DAY IN THE LIFE OF SUZANNE DENISE-OVITCH (With apologies and kudos to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn). She writes:

First, a Chag Sameach – a Happy Rosh Hashanah – to all our Jewish readers. We Jews celebrate “New Year” twice and it’s awesome that we get TWO official chances a year to resolve to do better. Of course, we can resolve to do better any second of any day. We can also start a diet at 3:00 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month, but how many of us do that? No, we have to wait for the first of a nicely distant month, preferably a Monday. Setting our disappointing, flawed natures aside, let us look back just a couple of weeks…

We read A Day In the Life of Ivan Denisovich in my Russian Literature class Junior year at Northwestern University. A masterpiece to be sure, very moving and terrifying, but perhaps it had less impact on a native Minnesotan than on somebody from Texas.

Oh, sure, being a Soviet political prisoner in a gulag work camp had to be pretty wretched. Not warm enough clothes, no decent Thai restaurants, endless horrible work, snitches and untrustworthy, thieving fellow prisoners, and all the time the relentless cold, cold, cold.

But COLD is not as scary to a native Minnesotan! Once when Joe was in Israel for two weeks in January, his cousin, Avi woke him up at 5:00 a.m. to announce that CNN said that it was 65 degrees below zero (F.) in the aptly-named Embarrass, Minnesota. Joe turned over grumpily and told him that was probably the windchill factor. “No,” Avi insisted, “The guy said ACTUAL.”

Avi and CNN were correct. The whole two weeks Joe was gone, the temperature in the Twin Cities fluctuated between 45 below and 20 below. Our family room had picture windows on three sides and was over a poorly insulated tuck-under garage. It was often in the high 40s-low 50s in the room even with the house thermometer set at 68. The day Joe came home was the first day that the temperature finally went above zero since before he left. I considered shoveling off the deck so we could have a picnic. No joke, man. A fellow comic went home to Iowa for a visit during the 45-below stretch, and her engine froze up — WHILE SHE WAS DRIVING.

So COLD was the devil we knew. We moved to Arizona in January of 2010. We went back to Minnesota for the first three summers as we had retained our home there. The first full Arizona summer here was a terrible terrible shock. Sure, you had maybe three 100 degree days in a whole Minnesota summer in a particularly bad year. But in the Arizona summer of 2020, for example, we had 100 days over 100 IN A ROW. And many of those over-100s were really 115, 118, and the topper, 122.

Instead of fighting your fellow gulag-ites for a piece of moldy bread, here you fight your fellow drivers for a parking spot near a twig, a shrub or a tall cactus that might could cast a shadow of a penumbra of shade upon your vehicle. Gunplay is never off the table.

I cannot use the stupid cardboard windshield protectors – often made to look like sunglasses — because I cannot fold them up properly afterwards. They claim to shave off fifteen degrees in your vehicle. Joe CAN fold them, but then leaves his on the passenger seat or tossed in the back seat along with drink cups from ballgames, Cheetos bags from road trips, and MANY half-drunk bottles of water. In yet another sign of the onrushing Apocalypse, those windshield covers must, by law, state in large print, “REMOVE BEFORE DRIVING.” Sigh. To my mind, that’s a decent way to thin the herd.

With the temperature in the Dusty Little Village approaching the planet Mercury a week ago Wednesday (okay, 116) it was noticed that we had an Existential Banana Crisis (one icky overripe one curled up in the fetal position in the banana bowl) and SOMEBODY was going to have to venture out to Sprouts. The famous novelist Max Cossack, whose awesome novel we discussed last week (and STILL on sale at VWAM!) suggested that we vote on who had to go to the store. Because it is Arizona and he counted the votes like Governess Katie Hobbs, conveniently one of the candidates, he prevailed 8-1. Then I called the Paranoid Texan Next Door to see if he could “find a few more votes” and now I am in Big Trouble. But before Fani gets ahold of me, I still had to go out to forage for provisions.

How fondly I recalled my Minnesota Winter Emergency Kit which stayed in my trunk all Winter (Mid-October through early May) – a rolled up sleeping bag, mittens, scarves, hand warmers, a shovel, several layers of clothing, blankets, candles, matches, a flashlight and an empty tin marked, “Emergency Snacks” which used to contain granola bars and chocolate bars and such, but which never made it more than a week in the tin. (“I’ll be the judge of what constitutes an ‘emergency’.”) If you ran off the road into a deep snowbank in a ditch, you had to be prepared to survive for several hours, maybe even a couple of days. And survive, people could and did!

In Arizona, there’s no surviving 122° F. for a few hours without immediate aid. Fuggiddaboudit. So, I consulted the Standard Check List for leaving the house when it’s over 116:

Broad-brimmed sun hat – check.
100 SPF Level Sunscreen – check.
2 Gallons of water – check.
Cooler full of ice for taking home Meat, Dairy and Chocolate – check. Forget ice cream.
Long-sleeved white shirt in case car breaks down and you have to stand outside for over 30 seconds – check.
Little round padded cotton steering wheel cover – check.
Fully charged cellphone to arrange immediate pick-up by spouse or neighbor if car breaks down. (The hell with the CAR – it’s a 2012 Hyundai Sonata – I am a 1946 Geezer-American!)

Ready to go! Several errands to run, including visits to two different banks. Then on to two grocery stores, one with a sun cover over its parking lot. Woohoo! The entire round trip, hitting all four places, perhaps adding up to a total of eight miles. But you can’t be too careful.

Chase Bank is first. I grabbed the metal door handle facing the blazing sun and screamed aloud. Okay, that was on me. I did NOT remember to take my welding glove for touching hot metal. No one who has been here for 13 years should make such a rookie mistake. Fortunately, a kind fella exited and, holding the inside handle with his bunched-up shirt, opened it like a gentleman. He said it was hardly hot at all on the inside handle, a small blister, nothing to write home about.

But the fun at Chase was scarcely over. The line was short at Chase with two teller windows open. One window held my favorite teller, a very nice, efficient but friendly woman I have had the opportunity to deal with at least twice a month for 13 years. Though I sometimes have a little trouble remembering people’s names – and firmly believe that everybody should be obliged to wear a name tag at all times – what’s great about that teller is that her name is the same as mine, making it incrementally less likely that I will forget it.

The old codger at her window is taking forever and the lady ahead of me in the other line has finished up her business, so I will have to go to the other window. I say to the young Mexican woman, “I’m sure you’re great too, but I have always enjoyed my encounters with Susan.”

One eensy teensy little problem – the new young woman looked around bewildered and, looking to her right, asked, “Do you mean Patti?” I just did the Mitch Glitch and froze for thirty seconds. It takes a fair amount to render me speechless, but this had done it.

I probably would have gone on calling her Susan until one of us was dead, as she was far too kind to mention it. Now, I believe in a loving God. So why would He have not just opened up the floor and taken me Home right then and there? But, no. The new teller, Carlotta, (like I’m going to remember THAT…) did kindly tell me that they USED to have a “Susan” who also had long hair like Patti’s, but there really was no way to make me feel any less stupid.

I got the soups, tomato sauce, and syrup at Bashas and put the fresh fruits and vegetables from Sprouts into the back seat where they would be air-conditioned for the trip home. Unfortunately, I had put the Bashas stuff into the trunk out of habit, forgetting that there were also four bananas in that bag. Joe ate the banana several HOURS later and announced that it was still warm. Yum.

And then I did something I had never done before in my life. Since it was August 30, I flipped the calendar page over a day early and put up the September page with the adorable kitten on the top. I simply could not TAKE August for even one more day. I’m not even sorry. I was channeling Bob Seger’s great song “Turn the Page.” And guess what? Within an hour of doing that, the heavens opened up and it began to rain. The high the next day was a mild and comfortable 93.

Coincidence? You be the judge!

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