Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona, just for fun. Advertising-free, supported by my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

Dealing with the summer heat in old-time and modern Phoenix


As I write this, is very hot out there. I mean, stupid, crazy, "who in their right mind would live there?" hot. I live in Glendale, a suburb of Phoenix, and have done so for over 25 years. It's my dearest wish to be able to remain here until my days are done, but as much as I love it here, I gotta tell ya, the summers are awful!

I know that I'm not a very good fit for this climate. It takes a special kind of person to deal with this, and lately I've been pondering what kind of people can thrive here in the desert, and what people can't be here at all. And of course, the people who are just marginal, like me.

Let's time-travel back to before Phoenix had air conditioning, which you can argue was as early as the 1920s, although there were plenty of people living in Phoenix without A/C right up through the 1960s, or later. Heck, there are people right now who are just toughing it out, as the temperature climbs over 110. And while it's true that Phoenix has gotten warmer since "back in the day", it's always been very hot, even back when Phoenix was brand new, in 1870. It may not have gotten to 120, but it definitely always was over 100 degrees in the summertime.

Of course, the kind of person that springs to mind is what I would call a true "desert rat". I've met people like that, they toughened themselves up to the heat, starting when they were kids, and could be just fine in the kind of extreme temperatures that would make other people faint, or vomit, or worse. Most of the people I've known like that have naturally darker skin than me, but not all. I've seen these people working up on roofs when it's over 100 degrees, or standing on asphalt while everyone else glides by in cool air conditioned comfort in their cars. A true desert person really doesn't need air conditioning, it's a luxury that they enjoy, but they wouldn't die without it.

On the other hand, there's the person who does well with air conditioned spaces. And I'm really not that person, either. This is the kind of person who does well with artificial lighting, and artificial climates. They can stay inside of buildings and be perfectly happy. They never get a touch of claustrophobia, which is what plagues me, and they can sit inside of small air-conditioned spaces very comfortably. People who know me know that I tend to go sit outside while waiting at the dentist's office, even if it's very hot outside. I'll look for shade, but I need to get outside. The people sitting comfortably in the air conditioned waiting room must think that I'm a little kooky, or that maybe I'm a desert rat. They're just fine sitting there in the air conditioning, with walls around them.

So those are the two options of dealing with the heat of Phoenix. Some people really can't cut it, and even a short visit is horrible for them. I've known many people who are wealthy enough that they could get away all summer, and all I can say is "It must be nice!"

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