I’ve come to the conclusion that having multiple sclerosis can be really annoying sometimes—I know, shocking. And the annoyance level really ratchets up in the heat of the summer. Which is why I have a framed portrait over my fireplace, oh the irony, of one Willis Haviland Carrier, the inventor of modern electrical air conditioning. (Okay, technically it’s not over my fireplace. And truth be told, it’s a digital photo conveniently stored on a Wikipedia page, but these are unimportant details to our story. Let’s move along.) Anyway, I really needed Mr. Carrier’s help the other day when my sense of adventure collided with searing temperatures in a most unexpected way.
See, I enjoy the unusual, trying new things, taking risks. So when I got an invitation for a speakeasy-style culinary dinner, I was intrigued. A multi-course French meal followed by a series of French short films at a location TBD, accessible only to those with the secret password? Count me in. Days before the event an e-mail arrived with my codeword (“bon appétit”) and directions to the private home… along with the dress code: semi formal. Wait, this is New Mexico! Dressing up here usually just means wearing your nice shorts or putting on that one baseball cap you haven't sweat through yet. I haven’t worn a suit since my sister’s wedding, and she’s been divorced for a few years. I wasn’t even sure if I remembered how to tie a tie. This was to be an adventure indeed.
As it turned out, the tie got tied and the speakeasy house was but five minutes away. All that worry for nothing, I thought. And then we arrived. “Bon appétit! “ I said, as we were shuffled to the back of a home to dramatic views of the Sandia mountains, the city of Albuquerque, and a dozen tables set for a feast. Outside. In near record 101-degree temperatures. Where we were going to sit for four hours. I looked around at the other diners, most of whom were in short-sleeve shirts, and then looked at my reflection in the home’s windows. Beads of sweat were already dotting my forehead. But boy did I look good in my suit. The undertaker won’t have to do much at all to tidy me up for my upcoming funeral. I was doomed and the credit card was charged long ago, so bailing wasn’t really an option.
“Home, STAT,” I said to my wife. I had a plan, and it involved not wearing a tie. We rushed back to our house, traded my suit for something more climate friendly, and dove into the freezer for a cooling vest, which I wore under a baggy shirt. Did it look like I was sporting body armor? Yes, but we were going to a “speakeasy”; I was just dressing for the occasion, you know, in the event of a raid. When we got back to our gathering, the appetizers were just being served and no one paid attention to the barrel-chested, short-sleeved dude with forearm crutches. And I didn’t break a sweat again all night.
When you have multiple sclerosis, you often have to go to a Plan B. That’s life with this disease. The trick is how you cope with the situation—mentally you always want to have a backup plan. So if Eliot Ness crashes your party, especially one that was prepaid in full, you’ll be prepared to go out guns blazing.