August brings heat, sun and a long wait until Labor Day

Tomorrow at this time it will be August. I don’t say that as a warning to scare you, but all year long we hear a lot of people (perhaps ourselves?) say things like “well, if you think this is hot, then just wait until August!” or maybe “at least it isn’t August!” Or the showstopper that millions of tourists probably should hear, but obviously don’t: “Whatever you do, you really want to avoid DC in August.”

But they come in droves anyway, as only tourists do (whatever a “drove” is), and the rest of us must pretend to go about our daily lives – commuting, shopping, working outside, barbecuing and other suburban chores – pretending beyond all rational thought that the mind-searing, bone-burning, teeth-melting, cruelly oppressive heat and humidity of a thing called August are not taking their toll on us. And if you’re one of the lucky ones who actually will go away for part of August, that’s good news.

The bad news is that, unlike much of the civilized world beyond our borders, most of us do not get away from it all in August. (Many warm countries also have those long daily siestas, so at least they can sleep their way through a big chunk of the month.) Instead, we slip away in June or July when it’s much more pleasant in Northern Virginia, and dutifully return for the unpleasantness of you-know-what. It makes no sense, but there you are.

I like the eternal optimists among us who will probably blurt out something this weekend like, “Did you know it’s sometimes hotter in July or September than in August? That happens.” Uh, not really. While this may have happened once or twice since 1810, which is before they even started keeping records, it’s not something to set your watch by. August comes in like a heat wave and goes out like a heat wave. And in-between it’s just plain hot and muggy and nasty and long. It’s the time of year when no one should be caught dead at home, pretending to live as we do the rest of the year as if August is just like any other month. Which it isn’t.

Ever notice how many holidays we celebrate in August? There’s a reason for that. There’s also a reason why the baseball season doesn’t end in August and why football doesn’t begin until September. The worst TV month of the year is August, when the reruns of the reruns are rerun, and even the summer replacement shows run reruns of what they ran in June and July.

Brokaw, Jennings and Rather? They’ve all gone fishing and maybe sailing and whatever else really rich news people do in August. It’s as though no one wants to be seen on television in August because they think everyone is at the beach where there is no TV (when, in fact, more people are probably watching more TV in their beach houses than at home!). Most of us do not enjoy the luxury of taking a full month off at one time, but if we did – we’d take off August. August is a safe “off” month because we could leave town today, July 31 – and not return till after Labor Day – and when we ask what happened while we were gone, the answer invariably will be, “Not much. Were you really gone?”

So enjoy today, because tomorrow we officially dive into the dog days of August and will dwell within its oppressive grasp for 31 hot days and 31 sticky nights. That isn’t too long, really ” a mere 744 hours – which comes out to a very brief 44,640 minutes. And as for seconds, it’s hardly worth mentioning. Well, okay, August is 2,678,400 seconds from start to finish. Click, click, click. One at a time. Tick, tick, tick. All 2,678,400 of them. All August seconds.

On second thought, I say we just hide for the entire month. No one will ever miss us. They’re probably out of town.

John Merli has been a Prince William County resident since 1984, and a Potomac News columnist since 1985. He has worked in the media for more than 30 years. E-mail him at: [email protected].