People elsewhere deal, but Arizonans squeal when it comes to weather - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

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People elsewhere deal, but Arizonans squeal when it comes to weather

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Mark J. Scarp is a contributing columnist for the Tribune. Reach him at

Posted: Saturday, April 9, 2011 12:00 pm

And now, the weather.

Faced with the inability to actually do anything about it, a lot of newspapers like to run contests. First frost. First snow. First 100-degree day.

Well, not this one. We here at the Tribune prefer to give it to you straight up. No gimmicks. Nothing to delay the first heat complaints of spring.

Ahem: It's April, folks, and soon enough, it'll be May. And somewhere in there, people all over the East Valley will be dusting off their best complaints.

Thirty years ago, Arizona journalist James Cook wrote a book called "Arizona 101: A Short Course for New Arrivals." Much of what his little light-hearted volume said then is true today, which is probably why nobody has written anything like it since.

That, and fewer of us are as forthcoming about giving newcomers any help settling in as we used to be. Look at longtime locals in the produce aisle sometime when someone from Indiana asks them how you cook cilantro. They have that look that just screams, "Keep moving, keeeeep moving."

Now, some things need a bit of updating. In his book, Cook noted that this is the time of year people lie about when they first turned on their air conditioning. "Not yet," he wrote that they would say.

Back then, it was important to put out a hardy, rugged Western individualist image that said it was better to sweat a bit in public.

Today, we don't hide our being weenies about warmer weather. It seems to be a badge of honor to be the first to roll up the car windows.

Take the people on the local morning TV shows. (You know, the folks who spend all winter telling us how little time is left until summer and spend all summer telling us what a long time it will be until winter.) They can't wait to talk about how, as soon as it hit 80 outside, there they were, loosening up that dial on their thermostats.

In Cook's time, people would get their pictures in the paper trying to fry eggs on sidewalks in July.

Not anymore. During July these days, people don't even fry eggs on stoves. If you can't cook something in the microwave oven to keep the kitchen cool, then forget about eating it until November.

Everyone grouses about how high prices are, but it's a point of pride to share how high your electric bill has grown.

"Two-fifty? In June mine hit three-oh-five!" You could just imagine such a guy saying that with his thumbs in his lapels, but of course, he isn't, because his sport coat hasn't left the closet since March.

Maybe it's because we have so few other natural phenomena to squawk about. We're insulated from earthquakes, and hurricanes coming up the Gulf of California weakly dissipate into high clouds long before reaching the Arizona border.

And lately we like to talk about monsoon storms in the past tense - "Remember '98? Whoo-ee!" - instead of harboring apprehensions about any coming up.

But would it be such a denial of a cool way - strike that - an interesting way to entertain ourselves to just buck up and deal with hot weather the way Midwesterners deal with cold or violent weather? They seem so stoic and resigned to it all.

I remember visiting a family in Nebraska one August many years ago. I was standing on the front porch with the mother, watching a powerful plains thunderstorm roar past, and felt the need to engage in rhetorical conversation.

"Do you think it will ever stop raining?" I asked.

She kept looking at the storm for nearly a minute before replying. "Always has," she said, without another word.

Yep, they deal. We squeal. You'd think we have lousy weather here, or something.

Mark J. Scarp is a Tribune contributing columnist who writes every Sunday, rain or shine. Write him at


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