The heat is on, on the street

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I was sitting outside at a coffee shop this morning, working on my laptop and clinging to each minute I can spend in urban nature. It was 9 a.m. and about 80 degrees. I was in my friendly neighborhood and I’m regular along with most of those stopping in. Simply put, all things were normal. And then…

A car pulled up to the corner, shy of the legal parking zone, and left the car running as the driver went inside. There was a passenger, with a dog, and the windows were down. I knew what was coming. There’s another regular around these parts and he, much like the rest of us, is passionate about the environment and the air we breathe. When a car pulls up and is left running, he kindly asks the person if they would mind shutting the car off. I’ve seen it before, always observing cooperation from the driver. Today was different and resulted in near brawl. As I saw him approach the car to tell the passenger to shut the car off, I got nervous. He asked the passenger nicely, she said “sure” and she shut the car off. Apparently not without texting her husband about it. He was inside.

Lattes in hand, the driver came storming out. Yelled at our environmental activist, noting that he should sit inside if he doesn’t want to be around cars and that his wife and dog were in the car. Our activist got revved up. “Look, man. We are in the middle of a global warming crisis. It’s selfish to leave your car running and make all of us breathe your exhaust and feel the heat coming from your car.” And it went on, until I thought that they were going to throw down. Then the driver got into his car and drove away. Our activist turned to me, of all of the people sitting outside, and confirmed that the driver was indeed a selfish asshole. I felt an adrenaline rush and sat still, observing all of the things I was thinking and feeling.

Summer is known as the season of pitta in Ayurveda. It’s the fire season. It’s the one where we are most likely to get imbalances represented by heat, such as anger. It has even been noted for many years that the crime rate goes up in summer. In this situation, I can’t help but think that the excessive heat contributed to the quick rise in their tempers.

Also, I agree with our activist. Cars always pull up to that spot and leave their car running while they go inside. It’s noisy, it’s dirty and it is excessively hot. I think it’s bad for the environment and it always puts a damper on my time outside.  Still unlike our friend, I never have the guts to tell them to turn it off. I understand situations where there are animals involved, but in this case it wasn’t super hot yet and the passenger had her window down (even when she had the car running and AC on).

Lastly, if we were more understanding, educated and willing to see each person’s perspective, would we have these kinds of tiffs in public or private? If we can see both sides of a story, wouldn’t it be easier to find common ground?

While we wait to solve the world’s problems, what about focusing on our own health and well-being in the meantime? In the summer, think about avoiding things that increase heat when it is already so warm outside. Avoid spicy, salty food and other heat producing foods like acidic, sour and fermented. Incorporate more cooling foods such as cilantro, coconut and cucumber. Don’t exercise at the peak of the day. Don’t leave your car running. Take time to breathe. And most importantly, be kind.

Read more about crime rates by season here: Seasonal Patterns in Criminal Victimization Trends

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