Yesterday afternoon, lightning slashed across the gun-metal sky. In my office, I heard crackles so loud that I thought the electricity was inches from my face. With each streak of lightning, the great expanse of clouds flashed off-white. Jackson looked like a disco stage set designed by Richard Wagner. It was fantastic.
And then came the damn rain. I sighed when I saw it coming down so hard. My boss looked out the window and smiled, “But, QB, we need the rain.” That’s undoubtedly true. March and April were mild by Mississippi’s standards. I live in Jackson, the state’s metropolitan center. Thirty miles north of here, in Canton, there’s a Nissan plant that employs about 6,000 workers. Still, the state’s economy still depends on agriculture more than anything else, and no rain means a bad year for everyone.
Growing up in Dallas, I loved thunderstorms. They were refreshing, as gorgeous to watch as a sunset or the star-filled night. (Not that I often saw stars, anyway; the air pollution and aurora commercialis covered everything.) Storms cooled off 95-degree days. Best of all, they left quickly. Dallas is a city of concrete and glass. There are a few pockets of green resistance, but most of the rain falls and collects on hard, unforgiving surfaces that don’t absorb water well. On the morning after a summer storm, the water will have mostly evaporated and the streets will be stark and dry.
In Jackson, the rain lingers. It’s just as hot as it is in Dallas, but Dallas has a dry heat. Jackson is more verdant, more soil-laden, more lush. Rain takes its sweet time disappearing, rising oh-so-slowly back into the clouds, clinging to leaves and undershirts as it goes. So we have a phenomenon that I felt rarely in Dallas, one that I’ve grown to despise: humidity. When you walk down a Jackson street in July, you don’t just bake–you broil, too.
Summertime Jackson is miserable enough without the humidity. With it, it’s unbearable. C. once told me that I can adjust to it by gradually raising the temperature of my central unit at home, by wearing looser clothing, by using my car’s air conditioning less frequently. The theory, I guess, is that my body will eventually acclimate itself to the absurd heat around me. We–the humidity and I–will strike an equilibrium.
I’ve been here, off and on, since August 1995. The equilibrium has not been struck.
So, yesterday afternoon, I looked at that hard rain with dismay. I knew what was coming next. But, this morning, the weather surprised me. The Weather Channel says it’s only a balmy 73 degrees outside. There was even a light breeze as I left home this morning.
Unfortunately, I work inside. Specifically, I work inside a building with a coolant system that’s twice as old as I am. The lightning strike blew out the system last night. It’s hotter inside than it is outside. Our maintenance supervisor just sent us an update:
It seems that the weather last night knocked out several switches and for some reason they’re not turning back on. Since it’s a high powered electrical situation, we have to get an electrician out here to look at it. We have an electrician on the way, but it could possibly be a few hours before everything is back on properly.
Her previous email, an hour ago, began testily: “We are aware that there is no air circulating through the building.” Apparently, I was the 200th person to have called her this morning. She’s a Mississippian born and bred, and she’s just as miserable as I am right now. Adjustment, my ass. I suppose that knowing this is cold comfort, but I’ll take whatever coldness I can get.