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In the heat of the night

Heat is on: many struggling folks are suffering in the heat, because they cannot afford to pay for the electricity needed to cool their homes

In the Heat of the Night is a 1967 American mystery drama film. It is based on John Ball’s 1965 novel of the same name and tells the story of Virgil Tibbs, a black police detective from Philadelphia, who becomes involved in a murder investigation in a small town in Mississippi. It stars Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger.

It’s a great movie, and I am reminded of it about this time every year in Bermuda.

Like many people, I dread opening the electric bill from July through September. Being of Scottish heritage it amazes me how much I endeavour to keep the bill down. Running behind people turning off lights and fans and woe betide an air conditioner that has been on for more than 30 minutes.

I’m old enough to remember when electricity was a luxury. You may chuckle at that (“Can he be that old?” you ask), but I easily recall my grandmother wandering about at night with a candle and scaring anyone she met unexpectedly. Her knitted nightcap simply made the surprise worse.

Back in those days, certainly in Scotland, many folks had coin-operated electricity meters inside their homes and family discussion, after the weather, was how much electricity was being used. For example, as kids we were warned to only turn the light on in the bathroom when we went in and not while were in there. “There’s no need to be seeing what you’re up to” my grandmother would remind us. Surprisingly, “incidents” were rare. We were well trained.

Money was scarce to say the least. We had no silver spoons in our house. I relish those days from the perspective of learning about money and how to manage it accordingly. It used to anger me as an adult when people would say to me, ”Ah, but you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth.” I was angered in those days, but not now. Nowadays I merely smile and mutter to myself, “if they only knew”.

But I digress. Back to my electric bill.

Is it just me but has this summer been the hottest ever?

Day after day I wilt in the heat and the humidity. The combination drains me such that unless I am in air conditioning, I am no good to mankind (probably not a bad thing in fairness). I am constantly thinking about my temperature and not my chores around the house. This may explain why I dash out at 4am to put the garbage bins out. Even then for some bizarre reason I wear a hat. Go figure.

In fact, have you ever calculated the “Humidex Index”? It is defined as an index number used by Canadian meteorologists to describe how hot the weather feels to the average person, by combining the effect of heat and humidity. Google it and do the calculation using our weather information. Go on.

So, you can imagine my dilemma in July and August. On the one hand I have things to do, but in this heat, I have no alternative but to immerse myself in air conditioning. Yet on the other hand, I sit and listen to the meter clicking onwards and upwards minute after minute. What’s a poor Scots lad to do?

If only I had that silver spoon.

There’s a point to this rambling I assure you.

While I usually manage to pay the electric bill each month, I seriously wonder how many people, less fortunate, manage. We have seniors on extremely tight budgets. We have single mums with kids scraping by month over month. It upsets me that so many people are denied a good night’s sleep night after night because there is no money to pay the extra charges this month. Kids don’t function at school. Old folks can’t sleep, so their eating routine is impacted. Mothers are run ragged with work and home and heat.

I have no solution I’m afraid. But I understand your own dilemma and feel for you.

If I had any silver spoons, believe me, I’d send them over.

Call in to our weekly radio show The Ozone on Magic 102.7 FM each Thursday from 9.30am to 11am (297-1027) and tell me how you’re coping.

Stay cool.

Bill Storie is chief executive of The Olderhood Group Ltd, Bermuda and is a CA (Scotland). For more information, visit www.olderhoodgroup.com