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Joanne Spataro Headshot

Cold Shower Time

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I was going to write about how hot summers are in the South. I would have told you when I wake up at 6:30 a.m., it's already 85 degrees with triple-digit temperatures later in the day. That I can't wear silk blouses or anything with sleeves until October, that I might as well wear a swimsuit to the office. Maybe you would have thought that was funny, how my exposed skin would stick to the hard seats on the bus to and from work. Or you would have thought I was just weird, but I would have taken that chance.

I would have said people in Charlotte, N.C. talk about the heat like a friend they are annoyed with, trying to avoid, or wishing would be cooler or more refreshing to be around. Even natives have an almost Scarlett O'Hara-like affliction with the heat, as if they get the vapors just by standing near a sunny bay window. And in all respects, the city felt as hot as Tara on fire with its recent wave of triple-digit temperatures. Even the neighborhood pool is so hot that you and other swimmers feel like chunks of meat in a hot, chlorinated stew.

If you were very lucky, I may have thrown in some hard facts, so you would know I wasn't over exaggerating about the severity of Southern heat. In 2008, Charlotte was in the severe drought, when we had water restrictions so stringent you felt guilty for even taking a longer than usual shower. As of mid-May this year, The North Carolina Drought Advisory Council categorized Charlotte and the surrounding area as experiencing moderate drought conditions. Mecklenburg County is one of 61 counties in North Carolina under this classification, with river levels receiving 50 percent less rain than they normally should.

But I can't tell you any of that, because it rained this week. And when it rains in Charlotte, everyone forgets we're still in a drought. We graduate from a dry heat that smacks you in the face as you leave an air-conditioned mall to torrential, Florida-style downpours with blowing winds and down power lines. We play the annual mid-July, August game of whose power went out. Like a packed theater of ladies during an afternoon showing of Magic Mike, the lights will go out and we will be taking a cold shower that night.

Which leads me to my phone sex operator story. I ran from the bus to my car several blocks away in a downpour. I was drenched The Notebook-style sans Ryan Gosling. I was happy to get home, until I saw how my DVR recording light was off, and my lamp wouldn't turn on. The power was out. I called what I thought was Duke Energy's help line, 1-800-Power-On, to report my power outage. Instead of the mild, disinterested digital female voice on the other end, I got a very, very interested female voice. "Welcome to Power Up," the recording purred to a background of beguiling saxophone music. "If you want to talk to one of our sexy hot ladies, press 1 or wait to be connected." She named some pricing scheme I can't remember, because I dropped the phone. To my horrified amusement, I had dialed 1-800-Power-Up.

If you take anything away from what I have and haven't said about summer in the South, it would be this: If you survive the dry heat, you will get a cold shower as a reward. More importantly, if Miss Power Up is going to restore your power faster than Duke Energy will, always stay on the line.