In which the author waxes poetic about the joys of global warming.
"Whatever happened to all of that global warming that’s supposed to be ravaging the planet these days?"
This was the question that entered my mind at exactly on January 17, 1994. It was Martin Luther King Day, an especially cold winter Monday, and since all of the schools had the day off, I was working the matinee and evening shows at the Dunellen Theatre, one of several that I was working for at the time. A constant downpour of freezing rain had started early that afternoon, and with the forecast promising nothing but more of the same until Tuesday afternoon, the crowds had been minimal at best.
It had been a harrowing month as the nation had found itself plunged into a harsh arctic freeze, with temperatures dropping to minus-50 degrees if you figure in the wind chill. Don't let those weathermen fool you. Every time they give the temperature reading, they always end it with the phrase "...and with the wind chill factor it feels like...." They're lying. The reason it “feels like” it's colder is because it is colder. When that icy gust of wind hits you square in the face, it doesn't “feel like” the moisture leaking from you facial orifices were just flash-frozen to your trembling, frostbitten flesh. You’ve just been bitch-slapped by Jack Frost, and the split lips and gangrenous patches of dead skin covering your withered, frost-damaged body don’t just “feel like” the cold hand of death manhandling you like a drunken orthodontist. They’re lying to you, and while they wish to prevent you from setting yourself on fire to stay warm may be soaked in good intentions, they are lies none the less, all be it soggy ones.
It was when the 3:15 showing of Iron Will (ironically enough, a film about an arctic dogsled race filled with numerous references to frostbite, subzero temperatures, and dogs) was letting out on this fateful Monday that one of the customers informed me about a leak in the men's room. Not sensing any real emergency, I waited for the other patrons to leave the theater before investigating. So, half an hour after being told of the leak, I stepped into the bathroom to check it out. What I actually stepped into was half a foot of brown, freezing rain water. It seemed that the merciless barrage of snow, sleet, rain, and nightly subzero temperatures that had continued nonstop over the past weeks had caused the rain gutters of the theatre to accumulate a large amount of ice, allowing the flat roof to flood like an overheated Studebaker. The rain, not wanting to stay out in the cold all night, was therefore forcing its way into the theater in search of shelter via the air exhaust system. Thus began my night of fun.
At first I assumed the leak was isolated to just the men's room, and although the water was pouring through the particle board tiles in the bathroom ceiling rather quickly, it did not occur to me to attempt to locate the source of the water until I was knocked to the ground by a 4-by-2 piece of soggy ceiling tile in the middle of the lobby, followed immediately by a generous splash of ice cold rain water. A quick and angry search of the theater revealed that the entire balcony had become the building's newly appointed rain gutter. Further exploration of the second floor revealed the primary source of my wet cardboard baptism: the exhaust duct in the soda cup room, which was supplying running water to the room like a giant faucet. An added bonus was the fact that this vent was funneling water into the same room that housed the rectifiers, large power converters that supplied electricity to the movie projectors in the room next door. Needless to say, I found the idea of me, soaking wet, leaning on humming high-voltage generators to inspect the metal exhaust vent while standing in four inches of running water quite distressing. I retreated from my personal deathtrap, returning only twice more that evening: once to place a large garbage pail beneath the "leak", and once to carefully place a plastic bag over the rectifiers in a feeble attempt to avoid any electrical disasters.
Nobody showed up for the 7:00 show, which was very fortunate, as by then half of the lobby was littered with soggy ceiling tiles and random waterfalls of varying size and intensity. Every pail, bucket, tub, can, and basin I could find was rapidly filling with rather nasty-looking water, and it was all I could do to run around and empty the ones that had begun to overflow while I was emptying out some other ones. It was while I was emptying these buckets of freezing rain water in the alley by the emergency exit, soaked to the skin with rain and a wind chill factor of minus-45 degrees ripping at my flesh that I suddenly thought of global warming. Wasn't the ozone layer supposed to be gone, or something to that effect? Where were all of these Earth First activists now? Sitting snuggly in their toasty warm houses, sipping hot chocolate from earthen pottery mugs, munching on lo-cal tofu crackers, protected from the harsh climates that they had forced me to give up Styrofoam hamburger containers in order to preserve.
It was at that moment, when the wind chill suddenly dropped to minus-55 and an overstressed rain gutter finally shattered and delivered its freezing payload on top of me, that I dropped to my knees on a rather cold and hard sheet of ice and prayed to that great big elusive god, The Greenhouse Effect, begging him to smite down those who had rebelled against him by denouncing all that is warm and tropical. That night I sacrificed a half-dozen aerosol cans in his divine name, and as I faded off to sleep, groggy and overpowered by fumes and the first stages of pneumonia, my dreams were filled with visions of vast deserts, scorching winds, and trees spontaneously bursting into bright balls of brilliant orange and yellow flames.