I knew something was happening when I walked down the street on a warm summer’s day at the start of July and heard a noise in the air that I hadn’t noticed before. Now, four weeks later, I don’t notice it, even though it’s still there. The electric hum of air conditioners keeping New Yorkers cool.
What a city of extreme weather New York is. I knew it got hot here in the summer, but it’s coming to something when you hear a forecast of 85F and think with relief, ‘oh good, a cooler day tomorrow’. Right now, at 11pm, it’s 83F, and it feels like 90F. The air temperature has been hovering around the 100F mark all day, making even a 15-minute trip to the shops something of a trial. By the time we had returned from nursery today, Bigger Boy and Littler Boy’s hair sticking to their heads and my t-shirt wringing wet, we looked like we were auditioning for parts in Titanic.
The last few days have been relatively unusual, however. A consistent mid-80s throughout July and August is the norm, and while I’m no sun-worshipper, I have been surprised at how quickly I’ve grown used to the heat. Or rather, it’s not so much the heat I’ve grown used to, but the fact that I’m dealing with a known quantity.
This is the kind of predictability we would have done anything for back in the UK. In the height of ‘summer’ there, we would approach each day with hesitation and a selection of possible outfits to choose from, ranging from the skimpiest dress or shorts to the full body coverage option of jeans and sweaters. On beach holidays in the South of England we would squint optimistically into the distant reaches of the thick cloud above us, imagining we could see a patch of blue and a ray of sunshine that would enable us to sit by the sea for at least ten minutes. In New York, there are no such worries. The lives of people here are very much defined by the season they are in; from July to August they are in summer mode, hitting the beach as often as possible, or if not, the parks with their ubiquitous sprinklers that cool people down throughout the city. I don’t need to pull back the curtains in the morning to know that all I need to wear for the next two months is a tee-shirt and skirt, while Bigger and Littler romp around in nothing but their underwear whenever we are at home. Cafes trumpet the arrival of their iced drinks and outdoor festivals and concerts seem to happen almost every day. Summer is a predictable and finite block of time, and while it’s here, New Yorkers put their minds to making the most of it.
Similarly, come November, everyone will bring out their snowsuits and boots and gamely trudge their way through the cold winter months, with a degree of endurance but also embracing the sledging, snowballing and hot chocolate-drinking opportunities that the season brings.
I like these seasons, severe though some of their days are. While they’re here, it’s easy to make plans and feel fairly confident that they won’t be thwarted. Then, when you’re sick of being too hot or too cold, it’s time for a new season and a new way of life for a few months.