Summertime Survival Guide
By John Gray
You’re sitting in standstill traffic on I-90 watching heat vapors rise from the hood of your car. To your left are three construction workers leaning on their shovels and, just your luck, the chubbiest of the trio is the one who has decided to take his shirt off today. You are thinking the word ‘yuck’ when you actually hear the word screamed over the radio from the booster seat behind you. Yes, your three-year-old who is trying to eat the strawberry popsicle you gave him in some moment of absolute insanity, has just dropped it onto the new leather seats; red syrup running down his fingers. The only thing that could possibly make this worse would be if… oh my God he just did it, he just ran that sticky hand through his beautiful, freshly washed hair. Looks like junior will be getting two baths today.
Just as you’re about to pull your own hair out the traffic starts to ease a bit, “Brown Eyed Girl” pipes from the car stereo and a devilish smile creeps across your face as you crank it up and start to sing. Chubby construction guy hears you and gives you a smile as you pull away into the hot July afternoon. You give him a wink and disappear into the day.Welcome to the summer of 2007.
I love summer except for two things—it’s too hot and it’s too short. In the blink of an eye it’s August and you are pushing a shopping cart through CVS buying back-to-school supplies. But we are not there yet, so as you bask in the July sun let me offer you some of my inane observations about summer.
Sunscreen—Let’s start with the obvious. There is no way 10 ounces of lotion should cost $10 dollars, it is not liquid gold for goodness sake. Especially when you can buy, say, a huge bottle of ketchup for just a buck. Now that I think about it, I have to believe if you rub enough ketchup on you it should act as some kind of sunscreen. I’m going to try it.Don’t laugh I’ll be saving loads of money this summer and if by chance I happen to run into someone who is carrying a large order of French fries we’ll be a match made in heaven.
No matter how hard you try there is always that one square inch of skin you cannot reach with the sunscreen and that’s where you’ll have a large painful red dot the next day. Why is it when your skin is the color of a fire truck and you are clearly in pain, people insist on poking your raw skin and saying, “Does this hurt?” Also, if you are unfortunate enough to burn your skin so badly it peels there is always that one strange friend who asks with great excitement, “Ooh, can I peel it? Please, please, please, just one piece.”
Tubing—For those of you who have never tried this you have no idea what you’re missing. You take a speedboat that can go roughly a billion miles per hour and tie a rope to the back. That rope attaches to a rubber tube and you find a person naïve enough to think being dragged to their watery grave is an afternoon of fun. When you are the person on the tube you have one goal in life—hang on.
When you are the person driving the boat you have one goal in life—see if you can throw the person off the tube at a velocity so extreme his or her bathing suit will be stripped clean off their body along with most of their hair. It’s a blast!
Ice—Summer is literally the only time during the year when you need to have ice on hand at the house. This is why when company comes over and you open the freezer you’ll notice all of the trays have exactly one ice cube per tray. This was done deliberately by your children to drive you insane so you’ll jump off a cliff and they will inherit the house. Rather than jump, most of us apologize to our guests and drive to the nearest convenience store to buy a bag of ice. When you get to the store one of two things occur—either they are out of ice completely or they have one thousand bags that are frozen into a single block of ice large enough to house a small family of penguins. After the store clerk uses a pick ax to free one of the bags you get it home only to realize each individual cube has melted and refrozen into one large block.Since you don’t own an ice-pick you start stabbing at the ice with a dirty screw driver, horrifying your wife. When this fails you resort to the caveman approach and start slamming the whole chunk of ice against the sidewalk outside while screaming, “Break damn it, break!” Your guests, upon seeing this, tell you they actually like drinking their soda warm.
Beach—If you really want to torture yourself, take the entire family to the beach. There’s nothing like having a toddler who is long overdue for his nap rub a mixture of oil and sand into his eyes while screaming, “I want ice cream.” Better yet, take separate cars and then walk around on scalding hot sand trying to find your family amidst a sea of blankets and umbrellas. When this happens to me I spend a half hour looking and then just find a family that looks like mine and sit with them. By the way, did you know its Federal law that if your bare feet are on fire you are allowed to step on a stranger’s blanket for five seconds or less before jumping to another person’s blanket? True.
Pool—I love swimming in a lake, stream or ocean, but some people are opposed to being in a place where another living creature may try to bite them. These same people avoid ‘happy hour’ at the local bar for the very same reason. These are ‘pool people’ and when it comes to swimming in a pool you have two options—public or private. If you go to the public pool be prepared for a couple of certainties. No matter where you lay down a 20–year–old who likes hip hop music will park himself right near by and the James Taylor song you were relaxing too will be drowned out by somebody named Snoop Dogg. Also, if you have well behaved children they will undoubtedly end up playing with a group of kids who appear to have been raised in the wild. Pushing, shoving, no sharing and apparently no parent watching them.
If you are lucky enough to have your own pool you don’t have to deal with other people; that’s the good news. The bad news is unless you got an ‘A’ in high school chemistry trying to keep the pool water at the proper ‘ph’ level and with just the right amount of chlorine can be a pain. You will also notice that everytime a leaf falls from a neighbor’s tree it will go out of its way to drift directly into the center of your pool. The solution to all of these problems is to make friends with your neighbor who has a pool and use his. Of course, when he holds up a wet leaf and says, “Hey is this from your tree?” you say with a straight face, “Nope, never saw it before.”
The Track—When going to watch the ponies run in Saratoga, here are a few simple truths which we hold self-evident. Guys, there is such a thing as too much cologne. Gals, there is such a thing as too short a skirt. If the men selling the tip sheets outside the track really knew who was going to win they’d be inside betting. If you park the car on someone’s lawn and don’t pay attention you will spend most of August looking for it. Oh, and if you see a horse being ridden by a chubby construction guy with no shirt, I would not bet on him.
It’s funny. As adults we spend gobs of money trying to have fun in the summer, yet more often than not we are standing in long lines or stressing ourselves out over parking and reservations. If you think about it, when we were kids all mom and dad had to do was set up the ‘kiddy pool’ or roll out the ‘slip and slide’ in the front yard and it entertained us for hours. So my advice to you this July is keep it simple. After swimming in your neighbor’s pool, pour yourself a drink, rub on some ketchup and turn up the radio. I called the DJ and requested Brown Eyed Girl just for you.
John Gray is a Fox23 News anchor and contributing writing at the Troy Record. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org