Friday, September 23, 2016

COLUMN: Corn Sweat

I have to be honest with you guys. I have nothing to write about this week.

One of the primary requirements of observational humor is that one needs something to observe. Sadly, the only thing I've observed this week are my muscles wasting away while I lie on my couch waiting for autumn to rescue us from this Godforsaken heat.

Forgive me for heading into Captain Obvious territory, but it's been really warm these past two weeks. Concerned-for-my-personal-well-being warm. Wondering-how-my-shoes-aren't-melting warm. And I'm fed up. I'm done with summer. Bring on jacket weather, weenie roasts and autumnal allergy attacks. I'll contentedly sneeze myself stupid if it means escaping this plague of humidity that's settled over our neck of the woods. Our very sweaty neck of the woods.

Whenever it gets this hot, it invariably becomes the topic of small talk. And without fail, there will always be one person who says, "Yep, I finally gave in and turned the air on last night."

If you're telling me that story, I might respond with a nod or a look of acceptance on my face -- but on the inside, I am judging you. If you're the sort of person who lives in the Midwest, has air conditioning, can afford air conditioning, yet waits until the heat index tops 100 to turn on said air conditioning, you are a weirdo-pants. My air conditioner has been running since April. It IS jacket weather inside my house and will remain so until the outside climate feels more like air and less like a swimming pool.

The other night I was driving home, a/c on blast, outdoor temps so hot that I couldn't believe people weren't randomly bursting into flames, and what did I pass? A jogger. I AM JUDGING YOU. Any time the local weather guys choose to include the word "oppressive" in their forecasts, it's time to stay home.

But even when I'm sitting in air conditioning with a cold drink in my hand, summer finds ways of ticking me off. When relief finally does come, it's usually in the form of severe thunderstorms and tornado warnings that seem to always coincide with head-of-household competitions on my guiltiest of pleasures, "Big Brother." "The person that I've nominated for eviction is ... BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HAS ISSUED A SEVERE PATIENCE ALERT FOR SHANE BROWN. IF YOU ARE NEAR SHANE BROWN, SEEK SHELTER IMMEDIATELY. HE REALLY WANTS TO KNOW WHO GETS KICKED OUT OF THE 'BIG BROTHER' HOUSE, BUT INSTEAD I WILL VERY SLOWLY TELL YOU ABOUT A CLOUD 100 MILES AWAY THAT MAY OR MAY NOT BE DOING BAD THINGS OVER A TOWN YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF." I swear it's a conspiracy.

And it is! An agricultural conspiracy, it turns out. The other morning I was watching the "Today" show when Al Roker started discussing the heat in the Midwest. He mentioned the cone of high heat and humidity that had formed over the our area.

"This excessive humidity is caused by a natural phenomenon called 'corn sweat.'"

CORN SWEAT? Seriously? I'm a fairly educated guy, and I've lived in the Midwest for 45 years. But until this week, I never had encountered the term "corn sweat" in all my life.

"Corn sweat" sounds like the kind of tall tale an 80-year-old farmer would tell his buddy down at the five-and-dime. "You be careful out there, Jasper. There's some mighty corn sweat goin' on today." But, as it turns out, corn sweat is a real thing -- except scientists call it evapotranspiration, the natural process by which water evaporates from plants into the air.

Plants suck moisture out of the ground, and some of that water escapes through their leaves into the air. When you have a state heavy in agriculture, the amount of escaping water is impressive. According to the National Weather Service, in the state of Iowa alone, crops can account for up to 56 billion gallons of water ascending into the atmosphere each day. That's the equivalent of 84,793 Olympic-size swimming pools just floating in the Iowa air on any given summer day.

So we really DO owe all this humidity to sweaty corn. And this means there's an easy solution. The way I see it, all we have to do is send up a fleet of crop-dusters and have them spritz out a delightful mist of Arrid Extra Dry over the entire area. Think about it. If Secret is strong enough for a man but made for a woman, it'll probably do hunky-dory on corn, too.

And let's admit it, as food goes, corn is kinda boring. But imagine the culinary excitement if corn came coated in your favorite Axe body spray! The shopping experience would be MUCH more tantalizing if you could choose between mouth-watering flavors of Excite, Harmony, Peace, Anarchy, Black Chill and Ginger Musk.

"But, Shane," you say, "wouldn't seeding the clouds in Axe body spray cause toxic chemicals to rain down on us?" Fair enough -- but I, for one, am OK with it. Remember, I'm safely inside my climate-controlled, HEPA-filtered home. I'll be just fine when antiperspirant falls from the heavens. But if you're the idiot out jogging in this humidity or the weirdo who only runs your a/c when the heat index tops 108, you're very likely in need of an aerial assault of Paris Romantic Rose or Hawaiian Citrus Breeze. I'm doing humanity a favor here, people.

Until then, I remain your faithful couch-bound air-conditioned hermit. Wake me up when pumpkin-flavored stuff starts appearing on shelves.

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