A burning question

Recently I visited my dermatologist for a brief appointment. After a two-minute visual inspection, I was told that my roasting sunburn many decades ago as a mere tot on the beach had resulted in me being acutely sensitive to Old Mr. Sol.

I was instructed to keep the hours of a vampire, lurk in the shadows and stay far away from the sun's rays, or simply relent and let the sun pick me up and toss me onto the barbie, without even the benefits of tinfoil and butter.

Squinting into the future I realized that I had better lead a more sheltered life and, should I feel a peripatetic need, I should adopt a radiation defense policy that makes an astronaut look like an aspiring George Hamilton. Another good solution would be to live totally underground and surface like a mole only when absolutely necessary. I hear that it works well for Dick Cheney.

A few short years ago, the only protective clothing seemed inspired by Egyptian designers keenly eager to capture the King Tut strut. I found the Boris Karloff mummy-look a little ragtag for my taste, so I decided to look into the latest in UVA and UVB fashions.

My first stop was to go online and view all the solar protective clothing currently on the market.

Wide-brimmed hats, full-length pants, gloves, wrap-around sunglasses and long-sleeved shirts that eat and spit out the ravages of the sun were abundantly displayed. My favorite hat looked like a modified baseball cap with a small cape sewed on the back, allowing the hopefully fluttering ray-blocking material to drape majestically over the neck and shoulders.

The choices of sunscreens were staggering. The SPF number of choice was northward of 45, which, of course, was to be worn under the special clothing. My favorite was applied by a paintball gun, but I reconsidered after reading that it was also the darling of riot police. I went with a lotion that had a French-sounding name and used a handy paint roller to apply.

The first rule of beach sun safety is to avoid exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., which means to frolic in your moon suit both before and after everyone else has laid out towels, ate lunch and drank beverages, played volleyball and Frisbee, taken a plunge to wash off the sand and left laughing while driving an impossibly long convertible with 3-foot fins.

To aid in knowing how much time in the sun is sane, an array of new devices abound. The one that got my attention was about the size of a playing card. Once you programmed it with your skin type, age, sunblock strength and clothing ratings, it would automatically sense the severity of the incoming rays, then let you know when to leave with a faint sound. Should you choose to ignore the polite warning, the sound increases every 30 seconds until it sounds like a supertanker is about to collide with a foghorn.

My allotted time was four minutes on each side.

I placed my online order, confident that protection was on its way, yet I had several important errands to run and it was high noon on a cloudless summer's day, so I had to improvise.

I slathered my skin in sunblock, put on my best protective clothing, grabbed a roll of tinfoil and went to work. The crowning touch was, of course, the tinfoil hat. Wrapped head to toe in tinfoil, looking very much like the Tin Man in "The Wizard of Oz," I mounted my Segway and headed downtown, only to be stopped by my wife, Annette.

"Let me guess, Rusty (my childhood moniker), you're foiled again," she said.

(Lance was last seen swaggering about the yard, dressed like Lawrence of Arabia. You may bring him to a broil at lance@journalist.com)

The regular teller was at lunch and a trainee was manning the window.

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