Under the gaze of a full moon who emits no illumination to our artificial world, the light trees, as they are called, blast the area with unrelenting glare. These are steel structures with banks of lights attached to them, and they are a poor substitute for the sun. They cast garish shadows that confuse the eye. They create deep dark, dangerous shadows where it is impossible to see. They destroy night vision so when you leave the center of the artificial sun’s aura there is nothing but the blasphemous afterimage seared into your field of vision.
It isn’t safe the leave the light of the new sun, because of the traffic out here on the Interstate, and besides that, it’s my job to stay close, even when everything is going well. The crew is efficient and they work well as a team. They are replacing guardrail, but one of the dangers hidden by the bright lights are fireant nests, which appear to be nothing more than mounds of dirt. A worker is soon covered by them, and right there by the light of the new sun, he strips down to nothing twenty feet from I-75. He hides behind a truck, and uses a flashlight to try to find the most covered areas of his body as two of the other workers throw water on him from the ditch, using their hard hats are buckets. This is immediately funny to them, and at the same time, serious. Fireants are vicious and evil little creature who attack by the hundreds, thousands, and hundreds of thousands. The man nukes the nest with diesel fuel and before I can say anything, there is a small fire burning brightly. I do not like open flame around construction. They nuke the fireants on the old steel posts, and then they let the fires burn out. Steel does not burn, so there is no worry there. I mention to the foreman the perils of fire, and he puts a worker near the flames with an extinguisher, just in case.
It is seventy-six degrees at one in the morning. The only breeze is the traffic blowing past us at seventy miles an hour but it is a dirty and dusty wind that leaves the human face feeling covered with an oily and black film. “Diesel Dust” the homeless call it, and I’ve heard it makes a great insect repellant. When people become too poisonous for mosquitoes it is time to reevaluate the environment.
My feet hurt and I can feel the sweat running down my legs into my shoes. The humidity hangs in the air like a light fog that cannot be seen up close. There, down the road a bit, it can be seen, and there, up the road a bit, yes, it is there also. But here only the lungs can feel it, and every breath a struggle between the atmosphere and the parasitic humidity that attaches itself to every breath, to feed on our energy and strength.
The people who have been at this for a while ride with their windows open and the AC off. Air conditioning is a venom out here that slowly kills your ability to tolerate the heat. It is better to be outside in it all the time, than to try to hide from it. Hiding from the heat now is like hiding from time, or gravity. The more time spent in the heat is the better you’re able to stand it. I park my truck a hundred yards away from the work so I’ll not be tempted. The walking does me good, and most contractors respect project managers who will stay with the work as it is being done.
Back last year, when I was working on the road during October, the nights went through a shift in temperature about ten at night. There was a distinctive downward jump, not a big one, but the heat of the day punched out, and left until tomorrow. A few hours later, true coolness would begin to creep in, and it would get downright pleasant. A couple of hours before dawn it would begin to get uncomfortably cold. As October turned into November, the coolness crept in more quickly, and the cold lasted longer into the day, making for very good sleeping weather. Working nights was nearly perfect then, and I liked it.
People aren’t the same in this weather. They’re more edgy, more irritable, and less friendly. It doesn’t matter how cool your home is for sooner or later you have to venture out into the heat, and even if you’re just going down to the store to pick up a few things Summer will have her dues paid.
Stepping out of an overcooled house will cause glasses to fog, and in the heat of the day, it can take the breath away. Triple digit heat is dangerous unless you’ve spent a good deal of time getting accustomed to it. A car’s internal temperature can reach one hundred forty. The time it takes for the AC to cool it seems to last forever, and in that forever, every pore in your body is going to open up like the Hoover dam getting hit by an asteroid. Working your way through traffic means your AC isn’t going to cool off as quickly and you will catch every light, and every idiot trying to cut you off. You have to park in another area code to get into the parking lot, the people in the store are morons, and the cashier a totally screw-up. Stopping for gas means you’ve got to stand out there in the heat while gas vapors float around you like explosive gnats. Getting back home means weaving your way through the same set of weirdness that you just survived, and all the while, the heat keep getting worse and worse.
And we wonder why there are more homicides in the Summer than any other time of year.