Curious Details of My Brush with Death: Hypothermic in Alabama

June 19, 2008 | By | Comments (5)

Southern summers are hot. You could fry an egg on Bruce Willis’s head (well, you could probably fry an egg on his head anywhere, anytime, but that’s beside the point). So let me tell you the intriguing story of how I did the best imitation of Ice Cube ever today and almost ended up in the morgue.

I’m on the road in southern Alabama, looking at lots of houses and gardens with the goal of presenting only the most worthy you, our esteemed reader. I was out with photographer John O’Hagan at 5:30 AM taking pictures, then spent the rest of the morning and afternoon looking at gardens in the 92-degree heat. I was hot!

What a Cool Room
Eventually, I checked into my luxurious hotel room, that had previously hosted such notable luminaries as Zager & Evans and The Archies, to cool off and relax. I took off my shirt (female readership just spiked by 21%), lay down on the bed (female readership spiked by another 40%), and turned on The History Channel (female readership now at 0%). The air conditioner thermostat, set by a cleaning person, read 60 degrees. It felt good.

After an eventful hour of watching The History Channel – I never realized the story of the founding of Pittsburgh could prove so riveting – I began to feel cold. Really cold. I put a blanket over me, but I still felt cold. I turned off the A.C., but it didn’t help. By the time I got up from the bed and walked across the room, I was shivering uncontrollably.

In June on the Alabama Gulf Coast, I was hypothermic.

What Would Bear Do?
So I asked myself what Bear Grylls, that crazy, he-man host of “Man vs. Wild” on The Discovery Channel (female readership once again moving into positive territory) would do. Suddenly, the answer came to me. He would try to get warm.

I turned the shower to its hottest setting, one that I believe would have melted lead, and stood under it for 20 minutes. Slowly but surely, my body warmed and the shivering stopped. It was then that I realized what I had done. I had ruined my chances for landing a Darwin Award for dying in an extremely unusual and stupid way.

Grumpians, don’t do as I did. If you going to do something stupid, do it as stupidly as you possibly can. Who knows, this coming November you might be elected President.


  1. Grumpy

    What can I say? We live in a cruel, unfair world. You might not have done anything wrong. It’s just that for some unfathomable reason we’ll never really understand, your hydrangea decided to die. However, its sudden demise despite the attentive care makes me suspect one of two causes. Either it was overwatered and suffered from root rot or it was physically damaged somehow. Don’t let that discourage you from planting another oakleaf. It’s one of Grumpy’s favorite shrubs and usually quite carefree.

    June 29, 2008 at 9:33 am
  2. RuthInNC

    This year I asked for an Oak Leaf Hydrangea for Valentine’s Day. Ordered it from a very reputable catalog dealer. Planted it on the east side of the house by the chimney, where it gets morning sun and shade in the afternoon.
    Once it got established and started putting out new leaves, I pulled out the weeds that had grown around it (not a lot of them, not very big, and not real close to the shrub), and spread pinestraw around it.
    The next day, it was all wilty and droopy. I watered it faithfully since planting, but it continued to wilt and droop, and I’m afraid it has now bitten the dust.
    Any idea what could have killed it? I really wanted an Oak Leaf Hydrangea!! Would like to buy another one but don’t want to kill it too.

    June 28, 2008 at 2:45 pm
  3. HJ

    Thank you, thank you…. we’ll water away!

    June 26, 2008 at 10:52 am
  4. Grumpy

    Thank you for caring. Yes, it is true — I am still alive inside this computer.
    About your hydrangeas — welcome to the wonderful world of watering. French hydrangeas, the kind with blue or pink flowers, are very thirsty plants in summer. When it gets hot and sunny, they wilt. You water. Next day, they wilt. Next day, you water. It pretty much goes on like this all summer.
    Since your plants are on the north side, it is not too sunny. The south is usually the sunniest and the north the shadiest. Your plants just don’t have established root systems yet, but they have lots of big leaves to support. Wilting is a way for them to reduce water loss. After they get more established, they’ll wilt less often. But you’ll still have to water them. It’s the nature of the beast.

    June 24, 2008 at 8:22 am
  5. HJ

    Dear Steve,
    I, like many others, was heartsick when I thought you had departed SL. Enough about all that. Look here, I’ll really be heartsick when my brand new, shiny husband divorces me for changing his house and now his landscape. I HAD to have hydrangeas. He planted three on the North side of house (we are in Enterprise Alabama). They have been planted about 3 weeks and wilt every day. He waters every day and they come back. I think they are getting too much sun. Will they adjust or should he transplant? Thanks, I think.

    June 23, 2008 at 10:29 pm

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