Some Like It Hotter

Greg Dawson ponders the Florida heat and the estimated temperature of hell.

The heat is on, and I love it.

Give me 90 degrees, 90 percent humidity and I am happy as a lizard on a hot rock. I moved here 30 years ago from the Midwest, and my chief complaint is that Orlando has only seven months of what I consider summer, April through October.

But I understand not everyone shares my reptilian fondness for heat—that many people, especially newcomers, are incredulous and struggle to adapt to our nearly endless summer.

So my advice-columnist alter ego, En Fuego (“on fire” in Spanish) will address some common questions and concerns about this heated topic.

Dear En Fuego: I am moving to Orlando from Fargo. My brother-in-law who lives there keeps telling me it’s “hotter than hell” in Orlando in the summer. Is he joking? What is the temperature in hell?

Contrary to the old saying, there is no record that anyone has actually “been to hell and back,” so it’s hard to say. I found estimates ranging from 285 to 832 degrees, the temperature that would allow for the lake of boiling brimstone mentioned in the Book of Revelation. The highest recorded temperature in Orlando is 103. Maybe your brother-in-law just doesn’t want you here.

Dear En Fuego: You hear people say, “It’s so hot you could fry an egg on the sidewalk.” Is this true? It would cut down on my utility bill in the summer.

Experts say it takes 158 degrees to firm up an egg, and even on the hottest days, sidewalks don’t get that hot. I can attest to that. Once on a scorching summer day in Indiana, I tried to fry bacon and eggs on the sidewalk. The result was garbage. “You might have better luck with the hood of a car,” says one expert. “Metal conducts heat better and gets much hotter.” I tried that too—except I used the roof of my AMC Pacer. The result was more garbage and a permanent stain—on the Pacer and my claim to sanity.

Dear En Fuego: When parking my car outside on a hot day, I crack the windows for ventilation but it doesn’t seem to help. It still feels like a sauna in there.

Kramer said that once on Seinfeld: “It’s like a sauna in here.” He was in an actual sauna, but he could have been sitting in your car. One study showed that after 30 minutes on a 90-degree day, the temperature inside a car is 138 degrees, and that cracking the windows doesn’t help. It just guarantees it will rain and drench your car seats.

Dear En Fuego: As a newcomer to Orlando—we moved in March from Pawtucket, Rhode Island—I would like to say…I’m dying here! How long do we have to wait for moderation of these oven-like conditions?

How long do you have? Not to be snarky, but here is some breaking news: Orlando has a subtropical climate. Last year the temperature here on Thanksgiving Day was 80. On Christmas Day it was 86. With global warming it may never go below 75 again. If you want to chill, go to any movie theater where the AC is so low you’ll think it was spring in Pawtucket.

Dear En Fuego: What should I wear to beat the heat in Orlando?

As little as possible. There’s a reason you see so many guys going around in T-shirts, cargo shorts and flip-flops, and it’s not because they’re slobs, though some are. Everyone says to wear white, which reflects heat instead of absorbing it like black. But if that’s true then why do Bedouins in the desert—like Omar Sharif in Lawrence of Arabia—wear black robes? I would never second-guess Bedouins on staying cool. But it’s just not a good look for me. I’m sticking with cargo shorts.

Dear En Fuego: Do you have any outside-the-box ideas for dealing with the heat?

The next time you go to the mall on a brutally hot and sunny day, do not take the parking space closest to the air-conditioned refuge of an entrance. Do what I saw a shopper, Enid, 45, do at The Florida Mall. Pull into a space shaded by a scraggly live oak about two football fields from the entrance to Macy’s. Yes, Enid conceded, it’s a bit of a hike, and her son mocks her (“Really mom?”). But when she gets back in the car it’s not like a sauna and Kramer is not sitting there wrapped in a towel. 

Categories: Column