By Tim Hayes
In my 53-plus years on this planet, I’ve lived in an air-conditioned home for only four or five of those years. Most of the time, it doesn’t pose much of an issue. But for a handful of days each summer, the lack of climate-controlled comfort can be a real bear.
This held true at the house where I grew up, as well. The nice thing was, every other house on our block had the same problem. Nobody had air conditioning, so we all sweated and suffered together.
My buddies and I used such sweltering, swampy summer nights to our advantage, though. It was a card we couldn’t overplay, but when conditions became ripe, play it we did.
We called it “sleeping out.”
The houses on our block each had front porches, where, on the nights our parents said it was okay, we’d bring our sleeping bags to the designated guy’s house and all camp out overnight. It wasn’t any more or less comfortable than inside the house, necessarily, but somehow the heat and humidity never felt as oppressive while goofing around with your friends after midnight.
The wheedling, bargaining, and outright pleading for the green light to sleep out with friends must have been impressive, because we seemed to always be able to assemble the whole gang for these porch-bound evenings. Either that, or our parents were so eager to get us out of their hair for one night, that they’d have said yes on the first try.
We assembled at the designated guy’s porch “after the street lights came on,” which usually marked the time when we had to come in for the night. We’d play cards, tell stories, and try not to raise enough of a ruckus to bring any parents out onto the porch to check on us. Wasn’t much sleeping going on during these “sleeping out” nights.
These adventures went on each summer from about fifth grade until eighth grade, and in those later years we of course became more daring. The farthest we ever pushed the limit came one scorching summer Friday night, when we decided to go AWOL from a friend’s porch and walk up the hill to the pizza shop for some slices.
Snickering and laughing, we tugged on our Converse All-Stars, slipped off the porch, and started on our way. Thrilled with a sense of rebellion and high spirits, we burst through the door of the pizza shop and confidently placed our orders. When the kid behind the counter told us how much we owed, however, reality set in.
None of us had brought any money, each assuming the other guy had some. Guess we weren’t ready to escape the porch after all.
Chastened, hungry, the boldness slapped out of us by a lack of $3.75, we wended our way back down the hill, back to the abandoned porch full of unfurled sleeping bags and scattered playing cards.
And that’s when the headlights found us. Our buddy’s Dad, the one whose porch we had flown, became alarmed by the lack of noise, realized we were gone, and came looking for us in his Chevy Impala. And good golly gosh, was he a tad upset.
Thus endeth our sleeping out days – starting that very night, as he yelled at us to grab our stuff, get off of his porch, and go back home where we belonged. After that came high school, and sleeping out suddenly had lost its cool.
But man, did we come close to a legendary night. All lost, for the sake of $3.75 worth of crummy pizza.
Copyright 2014 Transverse Park Productions LLC and Tim Hayes Consulting