Monday, July 24, 2006

Diagnosis: Mutinous Heat Dysphoria

The ice machine in the library's employee lounge slowly discharges sad, sorry cubes like the frozen tears of a grieving Abominable Snowman.

The building's 55-year-old air conditioning unit struggles to life at unpredictable intervals and then goes back to hibernation, having produced a pathetic puff of air not quite as chilled as the perspiration off a single glass of iced tea.

The Aging Hippie and other reliable pedestrian and bike visitors arrive at the library earlier and earlier each day to avoid the triple digit weather outside. When they enter the steaming building they have the sickly pallor of misplaced English colonials in a Burmese jungle. I can often see the whites of their eyes all the way around their crazed pupils.

On a recent infernal day inside the oven-like confines of this library I accessed the Federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration's website to learn about the effects of heat stress at work. Among other eerily familiar symptoms I found "irritability," "inability to concentrate," and "mutinous rage." I may have blacked out a few paragraphs into the fascinating descriptions of the effects of heat hallucinations, but due to the inability of our maintenance department to decipher the early 20th century climate control technology in our building I've been forced to take steps of my own in order to survive in the heart of the blast furnace.

First, I've begun stripping away the more ambitious tenets of the employee dress code. By early August I'll be forced to resort to the bathing-suit-and-Hawaiian-shirt ensemble I've put aside in my closet for a special occasion. My twice-hourly trips upstairs to the ice machine are ramping up my cardiovascular health to Tour de France levels, although my research indicates that a glass of ice left unattended will turn to lukewarm water on my desk in approximately 21 minutes. I've confined my movements to a limited series of spots around the front desk area where I can feel the distant breeze of a shuddering, dusty ceiling fan or the cool puddle left by my co-worker's can of Diet Dr. Pepper.

Finally, in a fit of passive-aggression, I've created the library's most ambitious front-window display ever. Repeated episodes of heat-induced dysphoria led me to contemplate the disastrous effects of global warming and worldwide climate change while fanning myself with a makeshift assemblage of taped-together library bookmarks. Over the past few days I've ordered dozens of books on the topic from around the library system, printed out and matted countless maps and charts describing its effects, typed and posted a variety of pithy quotations from both proponents and critics, and placed a large thermometer in the center of the display. Since I've noticed that the enclosed glass case exhibits undeniable greenhouse-effect tendencies, I'm counting on the thermometer reaching frightening but sadly realistic temperatures in the 130 to 140 range to especially alarm passers-by. The centerpiece is a hand-made, neon orange, construction-paper art project I've created in the shape of an angry, pitiless sun.

Soon the feverishly superheated library customers and employees will worship my sun-idol as a god and do its bidding. Even as I type this I hear it commanding me to smash to pieces the diabolical air conditioning unit with the tire iron I surprisingly find in my sweaty fist at this very moment . . . .


Blogger Adjective Queen said...

In this story I see the seeds of a frightening made-for-television movie about a circulation clerk and his maniacal obsession with perspiration, proclaiming himself the global warming messiah to his hordes of kooky customers.

The Aging Hippie will be your Saint Peter.

9:27 AM  
Blogger Electric Belle said...

Oh man, this truly sounds like a Twilight Zone episode.

5:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home