It is summer, I know — but not because I load up all my errands on a long list, including returning two dvds (which I have neither watched, with the sunlight lingering past nine, nor returned, because there was a truck with Connecticut plates “parked” in a tiny space in front of the library, its bed so far out into the travelled way that some vehicles did not want to chance driving between it and the “stop for pedestrians” crossing sign in the middle of Dodge Street, and the notion of returning anything went out of my head in confusion).
I know it is summer, not because I have made a lunch of fruit and yogurt, starting another day with the worn declaration “I will not eat potato chips” (so far so good, but it is cool and breezy, and it is only eleven in the morning). I know it is summer, but not by the airy summer shirt that reminds me I must go over to the shop whence it came to see if there are any more like it.
It is none of the externals: the high speed boats I detest on general principle but love watching leave the harbor, grand dames throwing back their lacy boas as they rise up and charge across the blue water; the privet already in bloom, always evoking an odd childhood memory, of the stench of the inner Harbor Pond on low tide butting against the heavy scent of the creamy flowers dropping from the hedges that had gone wild by the then-empty lot where the Fire and Police and Rescue buildings now stands.
Summer could be defined, now that I am thinking of them, by the fireflies I have been seeing in my yard at night when I come home in the near dark and do not turn on lights, able to navigate the familiar rooms without them. At first I thought they were no more than a freakish gift since they are usually out over the swale in the field, not everywhere — in the tall grass at the edge of the yard, along the wall near my back window, tiny flashes of yellow that make me wonder if they are always this close, until I turn on the lights and make them insignificant in the way the sun dims even the brightest stars.
I know it is summer on this particular morning because, loaded with my movies and lunch and keys and just-in-case heavy shirt, I step outside, so pleased that on this one day, which usually does not come until mid-August, I am leaving fully prepared. I have with me every item on my list, including things I did not even put to paper — such as the phone I could not immediately find because I could not locate it by calling (see Verizon below).
It was when my feet hit the rough cement of the walk and I realized, for the first time, that I have not bothered with shoes — then summer washes over me, more than fireflies and dust on the road. It was, at last, in all ways — by the calendar, by the weather, by my own mind set — summer, this shortest of seasons.
As soon as it arrives, it begins to depart, I am reminded by someone who prefaces his comment about days already getting shorter with “I don’t want to burst your bubble” when, of course, that is all he wants to do. It was a stranger, but, still, how could he think someone who knows the day and time of the earliest sunset of the year would not be aware of the moment on which the summer officially turns? It doesn’t matter, the solstice wind was a good one, enough to keep my bubble intact for a bit longer.
Then, to keep things balanced, there is Verizon.
Years ago, a colleague on the Town Council occasionally threw into a conversation about an especially annoying person/topic the words “I hate,” and would then immediately stop himself. “Hate” was too strong a word, he reminded himself as much as me, he did not actually “hate” the person/topic at hand, infuriating as it was. He didn’t truly hate anyone.
I think of those long ago conversation whenever I think of Verizon, which happens only when something goes wrong or when someone asks about a particular service or mentions that the cell phones were down all night or talks about the speed of their DSL service. Verizon, whose motto really could be: “If it’s not one thing, it’s another!”
I think I hate them, not the crew on the ground that makes things work again (they have always been, to a man, wonderful), but the layers in between them and me, the Verizon that exists at the other end of the phone line. We all know the drill: the phone doesn’t work and they ask if we can be called on the line we’ve just called about. They tell us to go to verizon.com, where our problems will be solved. Except, of course, we can’t get to the site, or anything else dot-com, because the phone is out and with it, our internet access.
Remember when it was The Telephone Company? Nationwide, it was the brunt of many jokes, the root of many conspiracy theories. Perhaps there was a greater value in that monopoly than we realized. The sight of fireflies, the smell of beach roses and honeysuckle cut with salt air, the taste of new corn, the feel of concrete and grass and sand beneath our feet, the sound of music floating in the summer night, each or as a whole, these things are less of a unifying force than the curse of Verizon could be, were we all subject to it.
When I think of the ever escalating level of hostility in public discourse, I have to wonder if things would be better if we were all still made one by the common enemy: The Telephone Company.