The headline speaks reams about the disconnect between reality and government schedules: "Despite the heat, it's time for pools, beaches to start closing." Why is it time? Because it's time. Stop asking stupid questions.
In the canonical list of things about which you can be rightly steamed, this falls somewhere between cold fries at the drive-through and shirt-collar tags that scratch your neck. But it’s instructive. Sunday was the last day for lifeguards at Minneapolis beaches. St. Paul will close Phalen on Sunday. Ramsey County yanked the lifeguards August tenth, for heaven’s sake. One of the hottest, driest months in recent memory, and this is how we’re served.
Why? Because they can, I suppose; because we’re used to it. There’s a fountain in our neighborhood kiddie pool, and it always shuts off long before the toddler swimming season is over, weather be damned. They have their schedules and they have their budgets. Whether anyone involved in these decisions realizes the message sent by an empty lifeguard chair is irrelevant; if it’s over for them, it’s over for you. Deal with it.
When I read the story I almost gave in, and decided to post the inevitable slumped-shoulder signs-of-summer’s-end thread. But rather than concede in advance, why not go on the offensive? Why not posit that summer does not end with Labor Day, but terminates with dignity in the middle of September? The leaves will still be green; noon will still have strength; the flowers don’t know anything’s changed. If August can last 31 days, why not 45?
Give October its full ration; we all love October. Carve two weeks out of November’s dead brown hide. No one would mourn the halving of November, and the winter ahead would seem easier to bear if we could sprint through the month, pause for turkey, and schuss into Christmastime.
I can’t think of a month less deserving of the full ration than November. It’s just March, backwards.
But if we’re going to start reallocating the days, it might be wise to leave September alone. It’s a well-mannered month, and all the back-to-school connotations have deep roots in our childhood memories. It always seemed long; let it be long. Give the extra days to June, perhaps – but then again, June’s charm is its slender quality, its perishable nature. July, then? Fine. But July starts with a bang, and has nothing to add after the fourth; just imagining “July 42nd” makes you feel hot and hellish. May? Well, May already has a full ration, and if it can’t do it in 31 days, there’s no reason to ladle on another week.
Come to think of it, there’s not a month I’d shorten. Or lengthen. They seem to be perfectly proportioned, somehow. All the more reason for the cities to find the cash to put a teen on the tall white chair until they need a parka. Life is short and summer is shorter.
The neighborhood pool is visible from my daughter’s school. It would be cruel to see the fountain spraying when you’re stuck inside, crammed into rows, retuning your brain to the rhythms of institutional instruction. It’s also cruel to shut off the fountain a week before school resumes. If the Park Board would like some free advice, it’s this: run the fountain until school starts. Wait until noon, when the kids are out for recess. Shoot it as high as it will go – then cut it off. Nothing more needs to be said.
They might even cheer. That was awesome. The bell that summons them back inside might even seem welcome. Of course, there's a bell now. Of course.