I never really understood the term “dog days of summer” until I moved to North Carolina. Maybe it’s because I grew up with air conditioning. But there’s something in the air. If you step outside for just a moment, it saps all the energy out of you. You could spend all day in the air conditioning and be energetic and excited, and then you step outside for a moment and you just. You want to lie down in the shade and not do anything.
According to WUNC, the “dog” part of “dog days” literally refers to the Sirius star that’s at its peak this time of year. But I guess it also refers to dog tired. You know, when dogs just up and quit on you from too much walking.
On a historical note, the South has always been noted for its slower lifestyle. Abigail Adams, visiting Mount Vernon in in 1790s, noted how still everything was. Not in a tranquil way, either, like how Southern literature likes to portray it. Just…very few people, and all the people didn’t seem to do much, even the slaves, who were very unhappy but also very tired. Bad attitudes everywhere. It was the Dog Days in Alexandria. That was in Northern Virginia. The farther South you go, the worse it gets. I read an article that blamed the whole thing on yellow fever, but really, you just cannot escape the lethargy of this sun.
I knew I would be out and about today so I dressed to combat the heat. I wore a short dress, capri-length leggings, and canvas slip-on shoes. My plan was to stop by school, buy my books and visit my classrooms, then go shopping for home decor stuff. I would surely have time to visit two lighting stores and then some furniture stores, I thought to myself.
Wake Tech is 30 minutes from the townhouse, and 40 minutes from our future house. Fortunately I set my schedule so that school would be the only thing on the agenda during those days, but still. I hadn’t planned on spending 30 minutes driving through rural back roads to get to school. I was actually pretty nervous driving through those roads. What sort of community college was out in the middle of nowhere?
Wake Tech’s main campus is in a pretty rural area, at the very southern tip of Raleigh and pretty close to Holly Springs. It was really only 10 or 15 minutes or so from civilization. I guess I’m just used to urban campuses, where land is a premium so they charge you for everything.
Everything. When I walked into the student center, I realized I had to register my car, so I had to step back out into the heat and walk for two minutes back to my car to get my registration, then another two minutes through the heat to get back into the student center. Then I stood in line, wiping all the sweat off my face, then handed over my form, driver’s license, and registration in order to get a parking pass and a student ID. I had my debit card ready to cover costs. I had no idea how much parking was, but whatever, I had to park on campus so whatever it took I would pay it. At NoVa, it had been anywhere from $70 to $90 per semester for a parking pass. At GMU, I had paid $250 three times a year to park my car on campus (since I took summer classes).
She had me sit down and smile at the camera for my ID. Then she handed me a parking sticker and told me my ID would be ready in about a minute. I didn’t have to pay a cent for parking or for the card.
Downstairs, I spoke with the woman at the help desk while I examined a campus map. I mentioned my surprise at not having to pay a parking fee.
“Oh yeah,” said the woman at the desk. “I remember having to pay $6 to park at NC State. I was a visitor! I had to pay $6! Like, no thank you, I’m not going there.”
I walked back and forth several times between the Student Center and the bookstore. They were right next to each other. On a cold day it might have felt like nothing. But the heat was a tangible thing, like your parents making you put on a sweater when you weren’t cold. The sun was blinding. I spent $150 on textbooks. I could have spent $87 just to rent the things, but I had a bad experience renting textbooks so I’d rather buy them outright.
I sat in my car. I wanted to sit and play on my phone but I had places I wanted to be and it was 2:30, where had the time gone? I wanted to breathe. But I have a bad habit of sitting on my phone in the car for like an hour and I needed to get going and break that habit. So I drove across campus to the parking lot, and then picked up my rolling backpack and walked around the building, trying to find my classroom.
I hadn’t realized it was three separate buildings. I hauled my backpack upstairs and walked in circles, but the only room with the right number was an office, not a classroom. So I walked across the bridge to the next building. That classroom was a storage closet. So I hauled my rolling backpack downstairs, walked down the path back to the parking lot, and over to the third building.
Air conditioning greeted me like a long-lost friend. I could feel how stinky I had become just being outside for 15 minutes. And my classroom was right there. Right in front. So now I knew. I knew where to park and how to get to my classroom, and I wouldn’t have to do this on Thursday when there were a ton of equally confused people wandering around these campuses, taking up stairwells, looking for their classrooms.
I walked my rolling backpack over to my car, on the other end of the parking lot. The sun beat down from the sky and the lot beat the heat back up from the ground. No amount of sweating could fix this. I wanted to lay down and nap. It took all my energy to get my rolling suitcase into the car. I sat down in the driver’s seat and felt like I was about to jump into a swimming pool.
But I turned the car on, turned the AC on, and drove to the first lighting shop. Well, first I stopped and ate lunch at Bojangles. Another southern thing: fried chicken and biscuits.
It was a place James had recommended. I walked in and saw a whole bunch of chandeliers everywhere. Just everywhere. Not gonna lie: it was a cool aesthetic? If I ever get the chance to just design a small space really quirkily I’m going to cover the ceiling of the main entertaining space with ceiling lights.
But I didn’t see any ceiling fans.
The woman in the shop greeted me and asked me if I was looking for anything in particular. “Do you sell ceiling fans?”
She walked me to the back. They keep them behind a curtain, I guess to designate a “fan space” from a “chandelier space”. She pointed out a few of her favorites. I told her that I wanted something with up-lighting. No, they didn’t have that display any more. But she got me a few catalogues and stapled her card to the front and told me to call her when I had decided what I wanted.
I remembered there was another lighting shop in the area, so I drove there. Turns out I had mis-remembered: it was a home decor shop. Most of the showroom was for flooring and the like. They had lighting options, but I guess it was more part of the whole renovation package. The woman working the front counter asked me what I was looking for. Ceiling fans with uplights.
She took out a catalogue — the same catalogue from up the street — and went through a few options for me. This one was nice and simple. This one was just the up-light. This one had a light on both the top and bottom. This one had three lights on the bottom, which was kind of weird, but was that something I was interested in?
“So I hate the light flickering on the ceiling,” I said. “My realtor said that up-lighting was the best way to combat that.”
“The problem with that is, you’re not going to lose the flickering,” she said. “All you’re going to do is transfer it down instead of up.”
“What if I had a light on both the top and the bottom?”
“You’re still blocking the light box. You’re still going to have flickering.”
I thanked her and left. I have a lot to think about, I explained.
After all, if I’m going to have light flickering either way, then what was the point of an uplight at all? Just mood lighting? Showing off the crazy pattern on your ceiling? What? So what do I do? Install recessed lighting and just put a fan, no light, in the center of the room? (there’s just a boob light there right now) Do I just accept the flickering? Do I not put a fan in and just put in, like, a cool chandelier? Keep the boob light? Maybe if I put in enough other lighting, the shadows won’t be so noticeable?
I just turned on my ceiling light and then all the other lights in the room. Indeed, the flickering is still there, but it’s not, like, bad. When it’s the only light in the room, though, it’s bad. Maybe I care too much.
I was ponderous and tired. So instead of looking for furniture stores, I drove home.
I wish I could say that I learned something today, besides the true meaning of the dog days of summer, and besides the fact that uplit ceiling fans don’t prevent blinking. Maybe I could say that I learned something about myself, or some grand life lesson. But no. I went home and read over the results of the home inspection while Cornelius napped on the other side of the bed. The roof flashing needs to be fixed, and some HVAC insulation needs to be replaced.
Maybe I’ll nap.