This is a recurring segment, with a recently-updated title, "Simple Answers," where I gather the questions I come across on the Internet in a given week, and provide a straightforward answer.
This week's question again addresses the summertime. You might remember an earlier piece on why it feels like it's only bad news in the summer.
Today, we talk about the month of August, because August is a churning vortex of confusion that can drive a man insane.
August is the worst month in the summer because it's inconsistent.
We create our dog days.
August is the month where you want to lie down and wait. Everything feels wrong. Wherever you are, you just want to wait. Wait for the days to change. Wait for the air to change. Wait for the environment to calm. That's our natural instinct. The world does not afford us that luxury though.
Dispensing with the poetics, August is a few vital things:
- August is the end of summer
- August is the continuation of work
- August is the start to school
- August is your last chance
That last point is the iron maiden, closing in around you. August feels slow because you live every second of it. Like the Dunbar character in the Joseph Heller novel Catch-22, you're dead set on prolonging your lives by any means necessary, even if that means making ourselves bored and miserable.
You sense the end of summer coming. You realize that nonetheless, work will still continue once the summer concludes. The work will worsen, because, hey, at least you have the nice summer days and nights to look forward to.
For those younger, August is a signal school is returning. School is everything horrible in life.
August is your last chance. But for what?
This is why August is miserable and inconsistent: it's the last chance for everyone to do everything before the season changes. What that thing IS depends entirely on the person, but everyone feels it, and everyone acts on the impulse all at once.
Each person acting in polite desperation to achieve their desire in the same narrow month creates an emotional traffic jam.
- Children take one last chance to go crazy
- Teenagers take one last shot at summer romance
- Parents make one last obligatory effort to spend time with their kids before school starts (maybe piling everybody into a rusted minivan to go to a lake or seashore, pretend it's not hot, and stew in their own sunburned misery)
- Office workers try to slack while the building is quiet, considering so many people are on vacation
- Other office workers try to fit two weeks of work into one week, considering they're about to go on vacation
- Those that can't take a vacation sit in the heat, still working, cursing those enjoying paid time off while still suffering the congested roads and tourist invasions from summer travelers
As everyone struggles to cram as much SOMETHING into the last month in the summer, you are either counting down days to vacation, days to return to work from vacation, days left to spend time with your children, or days to go back to school. Trouble is, everyone else wants to cram something in, too. Those objectives, often run counter to one another, creating friction at best, and destruction at worst.
That's when you get traffic jams and arguments over your idea of a good time. One man's drunken water skiing is another man's migraine headache while trying to read a book by a lake. Do you see where this is going?
People desperate to prolong the summer: so desperate, your skin boils.
In your desperation, you resist the passage of time in August, slowing it to a stone block dragging on sand.