Weather Confessions of a Bay Area Native

We begin today’s story with a lie. The headline, that is. I’m a semi-native – at least I feel like I am.

Does 20 years in one place make you a local? I am feeling like a local today, and others like me have shared similar tales today.

This is what the coastal parts of the San Francisco Bay Area often look and feel like in the summertime:

An unceasing infinite blanket of chill and fog and cold. I wrote about it here a while ago.

The perception of most folks about California’s western edge?

When we are talking about northern California, that couldn’t be more incorrect. I was in San Francisco the other night, meeting friends for dinner. The 30mph wind sliced right through my sweater (yes, my sweater) and made my hands numb.

Our Baywatch babes are wearing wool coats.

I enjoy the scarf in the winter as part of my fashion arsenal, but if I really wanted to I could wear it 8 months out of the year. It’s cool here, friend.

But not today.

Today is one of those weird Bay Area days that throw us coastal folks off-kilter a bit.

We’re having a heat wave, you see. The inland portions of the region are 100 degrees. hat’s fairly normal. But between the beaches and the Bay Bridge it’s in the 80s.  You wonder, why is he calling 80-something degree weather a heat wave?

All of the city folks are complaining that it’s hot.

You may now call us soft, or any number of meaner nouns, but it’s true. This region’s Mediterranean climate zone is unbelievably temperate. We don’t take lightly the bold shift in our weather. We are spoiled and entitled and yep, we’re soft. Go ahead and hate us for not living in a place where summer is a dewy sauna, a wet blazing steam room, where mosquitos the size of military drones can pick small kids up and carry them away. Sorry we aren’t buried under 20 feet of snow, traipsing down the street bundled up like the Michelin man. You are freezing your ass off in the winter and we are just…chillin’. It makes us charming and slightly precious simultaneously.

Our internal temperature regulators are so accustomed to conditions ranging from a slight chill to bone-shattering Siberia that when the warmth comes, we don’t know what to make of it. We seem to be happiest when it’s 72, with a slight ocean breeze from the west. We have a tolerance for 5 degrees in either direction, but we don’t much like it when things get too hot, 80-something hot.

I could tell as soon as I walked out of the house this morning. It took me all of 3 seconds to feel a slight tinge as a brief wave of warmth came over me. The air was still. The gale-force fog breeze was non existent. It was a climatological suggestion, this wave of warm. It was subtle, but it hit me immediately. It warned me that today was going to be different. Standing on the train platform, I felt it again. No wisp of chill. No gust of ice. Just still and warm, my world.

I wasn’t sure what to make of it. In the City, there are plenty of apartments/homes/offices that have no need for air conditioning. It’s only “hot” 30 days a year. We can suck it up on those exception days. I wondered if my office would be blazing, if I’d sweat in the conference room. I wondered if people would be crabbier. These are the changes brought on by a sudden shift in temperature.

The air in San Francisco is the cleanest in America, but not on days like today – the smog has settled in, cooked by sunshine to create a layer of yuck. They call these days “Spare The Air” days; we used to get free train and subway rides when the air got gunky. No more. Now the local government hopes we’ll not drive much and ride transit. Many do. Many more still don’t.

We’re having a heat wave, and I don’t know if it’s going to stick. I might be able to barbecue tonight. I might be able to sit outside in shorts.

I better wait until I get home, just to make sure…

John Scott
John Scott is the career services manager and a media instructor at the School of Multimedia Communications, Academy of Art University San Francisco. His second book, "You. Employed."is available in the Amazon book store.

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