Archived Story

Feeling the burn

Published 12:00pm Friday, June 28, 2013

For the better part of the week, I have been taking cold showers.

My water heater works fine. My air conditioner is working. And this isn’t some harebrained attempt to save money.

But after fighting a losing battle with the Florida sun, slightly above lukewarm has been all I can handle.

I took a trip last weekend to attend the Alabama Press Association Convention.

I was pretty excited to finally get a chance to attend, and given the locale for the event – Hilton Sandestin Resort – I was more than enthusiastic to spend my Saturday “working.”

The event wasn’t until 6 p.m. I loaded up my Kia and hit the road around 4 a.m. – if I was going to drive 5 hours to the beach, I was going to actually spend some time on the beach.

In my sleepy fog, I managed to pack most everything I needed, including my swim trunks, sunglasses and flip flops. I passed by the cabinet with my sunscreen and aloe and thought I will only be there a day – I don’t need any of this. 

After settling in at the hotel, I threw on my suit and headed down to the shore.

My coworkers joined me, and once we claimed a spot on the beach, they began diligently putting on sunscreen.

“Do you need any?” Virginia asked.

“Nah, we won’t be out here long,” I replied.

Two or three beers later, I started to feel a little itch.

I resolved to put a little sunscreen on my shoulders.

“I think I caught it just in time,” I said confidently. “Any longer, and I might have gotten a little burnt.”

I was convinced I had played it right, taking my skin to the precipice of burning.

But when I got up to the room, I got my first look at the damage.

My chest was fine.

My back, however, was tinted a deep red. My right side, which had been bearing the brunt of the sun’s rays most the afternoon, had a slight tinge of purple.

As the day wore on, my back continued to get worse. I lay on the bed, trying to keep from moving around. I couldn’t even lift my arm to scratch my head without my back reminding me of the mistreatment I had subjected it to.

I took a cold shower and tried my best not to complain. I was sort of angry with myself, given that I was supposed to go to a coat and tie reception, and now I had red arms and a perfect tan line on my face from my sunglasses.

When I finally got home, I wanted nothing more than to slather my back in aloe. I could only reach the tops of my shoulders, however, and I found yet another downside of living alone.

Instead, I found the softest blanket I could, stripped down to my boxers and laid down like a starfish, distancing my arms from my sides. I spent the rest of the afternoon basking in the air conditioning.

The pain subsided after a few days, and my back now looks like a mangy dog, with circles of pink and white flaky skin dotting my shoulders.

Monday, my boss’s wife came by my desk and dropped off a Steven Mackey Dermatology shirt as a joke.

The front reads, “Got protection?”

Trust me, I will next time.

Nelson is news editor for The Outlook.