by Isabella Maldonado
Completely unprepared for living in an arid climate, I moved to the Phoenix area several years ago. My knowledge of the desert came from watching Wil E. Coyote chase the roadrunner around rocks and dunes as a child. Before moving here, I had spent a week at a dude ranch in Wickenburg, and figured everyone in Arizona had a horse and wore a cowboy hat.
The thermometer already registered over a hundred degrees when I arrived at Sky Harbor Airport in May. I knew I was in for trouble when I burned my fingers trying to buckle the seat belt when I got in the car. This was after I scorched the backs of my legs on the car seat.
After settling in, I noticed that the humidity usually hovered around four percent. Sometimes even two percent. Coming from a climate (Washington, DC) where the humidity was routinely between 70 and 90 percent in the summer, I was amazed. It’s definitely more pleasant to feel a dry heat, but there are limits.
As one of my new friends, a lifelong Phoenician (yes, they DO call themselves that) told me, “Anything over 110 degrees is just nasty no matter what the humidity is.” Hot is hot. I talked to other transplants and asked if they ever acclimate. Most say they eventually do, but then admit to hiding indoors from sunup to sundown from June through the end of August.
Despite the heat, and my disappointment that I was not issued a horse and a Stetson upon arrival, I’ve come to love Phoenix. The desert has a beauty all its own, the downtown area is new and vibrant compared to buildings back East, the food is fantastic and the people are friendly. In the summer, total strangers will offer you cold bottled water as a matter of form. Shops and office buildings frequently provide bottled water to visitors as well. It’s almost as if there is an understanding that we are all in this together, because getting caught out in the midday heat can be deadly. The desert climate has evoked hospitality from a bygone era.
Of course, the bonus is that I get to chuckle when my friends from back East tell me how much snow they’re shoveling in January. I snap a selfie wearing a tank top and attach it to a text: I’VE GOT AN EMPTY GUEST ROOM. There may or may not be a prickly pear margarita in my hand…