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Dear Otus,

I'm originally from Rochester, N.Y., and have spent the past several years in Vermont, where the summers are quite reasonable.

I relocated here last month when the weather was unseasonably cool, but the first thing I heard about was your infamous humidity pods.

"Oh, just wait until the pods get here," they said. "Hope your house has humidity pod insurance," they said.

So, when my boyfriend Victor and I were at Riverfest yesterday, imagine my alarm when little kids started screaming, "The pods are coming! The pods are attacking the Kazoobie Kazoo Show with Rick Hubbard over on the Yarnell's KidZone Stage!"

We asked a nice policeman on a horse if we should run and he said it was a false alarm, but we should write and ask about the pods since you are the expert.

So, can you explain these humidity pods to an intelligent, but ignorant, Yankee transplant?

-- Sue Reed,

North Little Rock

Dear Sue,

It was wholly a pleasure to hear from you and to welcome you to the Natural State.

First of all, kudos to you for knowing the difference between intelligence and ignorance. Most people do not -- and routinely misuse the terms.

It's not dissimilar to those who attempt to sound erudite by saying, "Here's a photo of my girlfriend and I," or "I've been laying down all day."

It's not that those folks are stupid; they're just ignorant. And ignorance can be easily fixed with knowledge. Stupid, unfortunately, is usually permanent.

Another permanent (and unpleasant) aspect of the Natural State are the very natural, but unpredictable, humidity pods. They are sticky, gooey and viscous and spread misery wherever during the summer months.

Nonetheless, we native Arkansans either get used to them or attempt to tolerate them until fall arrives in mid-October.

And since you are new to our state, kindly note I used the correct demonym for the citizens of Arkansas. It is always Arkansan (pronounced ar-KAN-zun). Never use the quaint and colloquial Dust Bowl-inspired "Arkies" or the elitist and pedantic "Arkansawyers."

The latter is employed only by effete snobs advancing ulterior political and sociological agendas. These contrarians have even been known to use the term Arkansian in their orneriness.

Attempting to inject wisdom and rationality into the demonym controversy is this newspaper's distinguished editor of the editorial page. Paul Greenberg explained in a 2003 column in the Jewish World Review that "Arkansan" connoted upward mobility, advertising and the Chamber of Commerce, while "Arkansawyer" meant qualities such as "informality, good humor," and "sense of time as something to be enjoyed, not just a commodity to be used."

The esteemed Mr. Greenberg has won a Pulitzer Prize or a Nobel Prize, a Peabody Award or an Emmy or something equally impressive, so I'll allow him the final word on the subject.

But you asked about the humidity pods. You are wise to forearm yourself with knowledge since they could arrive in the Little Rock area anytime between May 31 and the middle of July. Pod watchers, however, say that because this is an El Nino year, we may not see them until the last week of July.

You witnessed a false alarm at Riverfest. Those were not rogue humidity pods, but rather giant soap bubbles from the bubble machine at the Super Retriever Series Crown Championship at the Democrat-Gazette Family Zone located at Heifer Village.

You will shortly learn the difference between a pod and a bubble.

The enormous, gelatinous, amorphous humidity pods winter off Tampico in Mexico's Bay of Campeche. They've been known to venture as far north as Texas' South Padre Island by early May before sending scouts scooting northward.

Humidity pods are a phenomenon that has awed local observers for hundreds of years, including the Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto, who noted the pods in his journal in July 1541, calling them "sudor del diablo."

After the pods migrate from their wintering grounds and disperse over Arkansas, the relative humidity elevates until the heat index soars to uncomfortable levels. Arkansas remains miserably sticky at least until mid-September.

If you want to see a pod up close, the Arkansas chapter of the American Meteorological Society will have the grand opening at 2 p.m. Sunday of the Humidity Pod Museum and Study Institute. The 16-story facility, just east of the Clinton Presidential Center, houses an actual humidity pod captured in 2011 and kept in its natural state by climate control.

Admission is free Sunday, with a nominal $1.50 fee thereafter. School groups and senior citizens get discounts.

Until next time, Kalaka reminds you to fondly remember the humidity pods should next winter prove as cold as the last.


Fayetteville-born Otus the Head Cat's award-winning column of

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HomeStyle on 05/31/2014

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