Who Really Needs a Cooling Off?

Gross. It’s just so freaking hot. It’s beyond oppressive—not just the blanket of sweltering summer heat, but the omnipresent politics; the inescapable, steaming piles of rhetoric that, historically and still unbelievably, lead us to choose the leader of the free world.

I go outside to get in my car, and I’m assaulted by heat. The seat belt, meant for my own good, burns the hell out of my arm: Metaphor for the ills of government paternalism? Why am I thinking like this? I head down the street to the gas station, my mind in an anxious quiver over the conundrums of global energy policies. Would gas prices be lower if I voted for Romney? Would the roads be fixed faster if I voted for Obama? Does a unicorn have a spleen? Would a woodchuck still chuck wood if a woodchuck could mine clean coal? Driving on. My wheezing air conditioning acts pissed at me, but I suspect that it’s actually pissed at global warming. But then, who’s responsible for fish getting skin cancer and ice caps disappearing? Me? In my heart of hearts, I really don’t freaking know, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the conservatives, because they don’t believe in global warming; ergo, their air conditioners work just fine. This may be a question for Joe Heck’s Sisyphean robo-caller. I make a mental note. I lodge it next to the endless reels of liar-liar political ads in my head paid for by some conglomeration of shadow billionaires who have my best interests at heart.

For a glorious moment, I extract my head from the political machine’s ass and focus on a little reality out the car window.

An elderly woman in an electric wheelchair is buzzing down Maryland Parkway with an umbrella affixed to the back of her chair, keeping her in the shade at all times. At an unsheltered bus stop, three people crouch under cover of an overgrown oleander hanging over a residential backyard fence.

I’m actually headed to Clark County’s cooling stations to see how the homeless are holding up in this heat—the county opens up certain extra rec centers when it’s over 110 degrees so that homeless or in-need people may come and sit in the air-conditioned buildings, get some water and use the bathroom.

When I find one of these barely marked cooling stations—it’s inside the Dula gym on Bonanza, down a breezeway, beside the basketball court, through a door behind an office—a cadre of grateful homeless people are not sitting here debating the merits of the plucky Paul Ryan. In fact, there’s no one here at all. Instead, they’re fighting it out where they are: in the shelters of the homeless corridor, in the storm drains and washes, under the overpasses, in the nearest public bathrooms they can slip inside. In a nearby public library I run into a homeless woman rinsing some clothes from her beach bag in the sink. It’s cool and quiet in here, and she avoids eye contact with me, hurriedly trying to finish her laundry before someone asks her to leave.

I hop back in my car, crank up the A/C and the comforting tones of National Public Radio, and drive right over the massive chasm between the haves and have-nots. There are burning hot presidential issues to consider.