Heat, Wave “Heat index’ll be at least 112. After this,” he said, pointing to my Mom’s new cook stove, “I’ll be on the other side of town, outside diggin’ in a gas line.” He wasn’t in a hurry to leave Mom’s kitchen or her air conditioning.
But I was ready to finish the yard repair work I’d started while he connected the gas line to the cook top. Already my t-shirt was soaked with sweat; in less than an hour, the temperature would rise about twenty-five degrees. At that point all of the flowers I’d just planted in Mom’s yard would hang like the tongue of an overheated dog.
I, too, would droop. Hurriedly, I completed my work, hopped in my car, considered my options since this was my day off, and rolled down my car windows. A/C was out of the question; I knew it wasn’t good to cool down that fast.
Rather than shower only to perspire again, I decided to take a short ride to a blueberry grove a few dozen miles from town. Appropriately dressed for that pleasant chore, I turned onto Route 86 toward Hillsborough. Through the opened windows, the breeze that dried my t-shirt felt like a warm fan on a blistering day.
As for picking blueberries, I knew I’d be the only one there.
Smiling at the heat, I picked while my car cooled under a shade tree. Tasting a few of the blueberries, I felt grateful for this bright day and its bounty. And I was even more grateful that I’d thought to bring my swim trunks and a towel. With my baggie of blueberries in hand, I headed for the Emerald Pointe Water Park near Greensboro, NC.
A vision of the wave pool served as my compass. Indeed, I believe I willed rather than drove my car there.
“Parking is $7.00,” said a college student who knew I was being overcharged.
“Not even the Raleigh Durham Airport costs that much,” I wanted to say. But I didn’t. About 150’ from the parking lot was an oasis, a remedy for what had become the equivalent of 115-degree heat.
After parking, I almost ran to the ticket booth. Expecting to pay thirty-something dollars, I asked whether there was a senior price.
“Yes,” said the ticket person, a young lady who might have been on leave from her high school. “May I see your I.D.?”
I almost thanked her for asking. “It’ll be $23.99,” she said, then answered my question about renting a locker. “Over there,” she pointed.
Thinking it strange that the building she pointed to was so small compared to the huge crowd, I was about to comment when she told me that I had to go to “that rental station to get a locker.”
Thanking her, I hurried eagerly to that counter. “How much?”
$12.00,” she said with a straight face.
$12.00?!” I questioned, as if, I realized, I was talking to myself.
“But you get $3.00 back when you return your key,” she smiled.
I’m sure she noticed the stains under my arms. Paying her with the last of my cash, I considered my options. This was proving to be expensive. Next time, I told myself, I’d use Mom’s garden hose.
But this time, I told myself as I locked my meager valuables in my locker, I was going to get in the water and enjoy every minute.
And I did. Just like the legion of nine to twelve year olds who jostled me at the Park. Or the tanned teenagers, loads of them who’d ridden church busses and vans; they were everywhere.
Bobbing in the Lazee River. Zipping and screaming down chutes and slides. Slipping from venue to venue eagerly, yet without pushing or shoving.
What struck me most about the park and its guests was that everyone and every ride was so well regulated. Daredevils? There weren’t any.
Having fun meant having someone to slide or ride or surf the waves with. But I was alone. Quickly I realized that the park was designed for couples and families and groups. I felt alone.
That realization daunted me; tomorrow would be just as hot. I will be just as sweaty. Even so, brutally hot August looms. Emerald Pointe has taught me that such heat is only fun when it’s shared.
Next time I’ll remember that. But tomorrow I may feel like a fish out of its water park.