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Summer heat puts Detroit's election in the cool shade

Friday, July 22, 2005

Summer heat puts Detroit's election in the cool shade

By Betty DeRamus / The Detroit News
Betty DeRamus

So far this July, the Detroit Fire Department has received 771 calls about illegally turned on fire hydrants, a summer ritual that makes sweat-coated kids leap for joy and firefighters fret.

The calls about the hydrants, some representing several complaints from the same person, are only one symptom of a local and national heat wave.

Instead of turning on lawn sprinklers, relaxing in air-conditioned houses and malls or swimming in recreational centers and parks, some people turn on neighborhood fire hydrants -- reducing the chances those hydrants will work when fires erupt.

Of course, if anyone other than a firefighter or other city worker turns on a hydrant, it's a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 or 90 days in jail. Moreover, once the temperature tops 80, fire officials claim the Recreation Department will send out someone to turn on the nearest and safest fire hydrant.

But a lot of people aren't thinking all that clearly these days. They're too busy slurping ice cream and steaming.

How hot is it? It's so hot that no one is even talking about an advisory question that will appear on Detroit's Aug. 2 primary ballot. It says, "Do you favor the City of Detroit reopening the Belle Isle Aquarium and restocking the Aquarium with a variety of domestic and exotic fresh and saltwater fish, plants and other aquatic species?"

If many Detroiters support this advisory question, it will be interesting to see how much heat that generates in the November election.

How hot is it? Well, the Parking Enforcement Unit just announced it's going to start issuing parking tickets during evenings and on weekends. I haven't heard anyone talk about that, either.

These are not just the dog days of summer. These are the rhino days, the elephant hours, our temperatures echoing and mocking the state's other economic and political troubles.

How hot is it? It's so hot that America Online's weather forecast suggested Thursday that "Relief from the heat can be found in North Dakota, northern Minnesota, northern Wisconsin and the U.P. of Michigan where 70s are dominant."

For me, the bright spot in all this is that my 7-inch-brimmed hats are suddenly the envy of Metro Detroit. Wherever I go, people stare at me with admiration instead of shock or amusement.

The relentless summer heat also has given all of us a perfect excuse for letting our standards slide. It's still not cool to wear bathing suits to work, but I've seen professional men striding around in shirt sleeves and working women wandering the streets without either pantyhose or powder.

And if you've wondered all these years why you bothered to buy an air conditioner for Michigan's two or three days of intense summer heat, you can now enjoy the thrill of letting that icy air blow all night.

How hot is it? It's so hot the devil just ordered a deep freezer. It's so hot firecrackers can set off themselves. It's so hot trees are wandering around searching for shade. But it'll be even hotter when the results of the Aug. 2 primary start rolling in.

Betty DeRamus' column runs Monday, Wednesday and Friday in Metro. Reach her at 313-222-2296 or bderamus@detnews.com